After two months of investigation, both the Madison Police Department and Dane County Sheriff’s Officer found no use of excessive force nor unlawful actions were made during the controversial arrest of Genele Laird.
Despite Laird not filing a formal use of force complaint, MPD Chief Mike Koval called upon the MPD Office of Professional Standards and Internal Affairs to conduct a review of the force used by the arresting officers Richard Friday and Andrew Muir.
In a video message released Thursday, Koval said he shared all public records pertaining to the arrest, including both reviews by the MPD and DCSO.
MPD investigation found actions ‘reasonable’ and ‘appropriate’
MPD assigned Sgt. Minh Duc Tieu, one of MPD’s trainers in defense and arrest tactics, to conduct the department’s review. Upon reviewing both officers Friday and Muir’s initial responses, bystander video footage of the arrest, MPD’s procedures and policies, he found the officers used non-deadly force within MPD policy.
MPD Standard Operating Procedures states any police use of force must be “objectively reasonable.”
In not complying with officer Friday’s initial commands to remain at the scene, Tiue said the officers were “justified in applying physical means to detain her.”
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According to the The State of Wisconsin Law Enforcement Standards Board, officers are trained that “it is appropriate to decentralize a person if it is reasonable to believe that control cannot be achieved with the subject standing.”
Once Laird was on the ground, Muir said she had become “violently resistant.” At that point, he began to assist in subduing Laird as he felt she had become a threat. She spit in his eye and dug her nails into his skin, which led Muir to administer “focused strikes” and put a spitting hood over her head.
Once the police handcuffed Laird, Madison Fire Department paramedics came to evaluate her condition. They found she did not require any further medical attention and did not display any sign of injury.
In the conclusion of the report, Tieu stated he found the officers’ response to Laird’s actions “appropriate, justified and consistent with MPD policy and training.”
MPD did not consult Dane County District Attorney Ismael Ozanne for the report since he said he already believes there to be “no criminal culpability” on the part of the officers.
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DCSO review said actions were ‘reasonable, necessary and appropriate’
Deputy sheriffs Kelly Rehwoldt and Dawn Brooks conducted the review on behalf of the DCSO.
The DCSO’s review also found the officers’ actions were “objectively reasonable” and consistent with MPD policy and training provided by the state of Wisconsin.
Like with MPD’s report, the DCSO defined objective reasonableness and found the officers “acted within the scope of their legal authority.”
Upon reviewing the interactions between the officers and Laird, DCSO believed the officers were justified in applying force as Laird created a reason for the officers to defend themselves and maintain order.
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What is legal may not be what is right
Despite the officers being cleared of any excessive use of force allegations, Koval said in a blog post that these reviews are not an “ending” to the concerns of use of force issues. Instead, he assured community members that MPD will continue to review any incidents within the department and work through a “lens of systems improvement.”
Mayor Paul Soglin echoed a similiar sentiment in a news conference Thursday.
“Just because something is legal, does not make it right,” Soglin said.
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Koval agreed that to better the relationship with the community, there needs to be a reevaluation of what is legally justified and what is desirable, in respect to these type of incidents.
In his blog post, Koval outlined a four-point plan to address the concerns of excessive use of force.
One of the points included the implementation of a Use of Force Coordinator, who Koval expects to start mid-September. Some of the coordinator’s responsibilities would include conducting research of trending “best practices” and training the department in using them.
While it is too early to tell how the community will react to the officers being cleared, both Soglin and Koval hope for one thing: Understanding.
“I do know that this really struck a nerve of discord when it went viral on social media,” Koval said. “I’m hoping when people have a chance to look over the documentation, they’ll be able to see for themselves what is and what isn’t required of an officer.”