Lawrence Police Department finally releases report on use of force in 2019; 17 instances cited; officers’ actions found justified in all
photo by: Chris Conde/Journal-World File Photo
Updated at 4:19 p.m.
An internal review board found that all 17 uses of force that Lawrence police officers reported in 2019 followed department policies and procedures, according to a public summary.
Two incidents that the Journal-World has reported on previously were not included in the 2019 summary, but the department provided updates on those, as well.
When officers cause injury requiring medical treatment or use service weapons — such as batons, pepper spray, a Taser or a firearm — or intentional closed-fist punches, kicks or elbow or knee strikes to the head, reports are taken and then submitted to a board for review.
According to department policies, the review board includes one captain, two sergeants and two officers/detectives with expertise in use of force and one additional officer/detective, to be assigned by the chief of police.
As the Journal-World reported last month, several reports, including annual public summaries of LPD’s use of force reports for 2016, 2018 and 2019, have been missing from the Lawrence Police Department’s website. The 2019 report, which indicated that it had been completed Jan. 22, was posted to the Lawrence Police Department’s website this week.
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Because some annual summaries are still missing from the website, year-to-year comparisons are impossible. However, the department had 17 use of force reports in 2017 and 2019, both significantly below the 36 total reports in 2015.
The Use of Force Review Board found that in all 17 reported incidents in 2019 involved officers followed department policies and procedures. None of the incidents were related to formal complaints. Five officers were injured defending themselves from attacks, according to the report.
Each incident “involved subjects who were actively resisting arrest and/or presented an assaultive behavior directed against the officer(s), another person, or displayed the intent to harm themselves,” the summary states. “A subject who displays assaultive behavior towards officers or another person presents injury risks to all persons involved, including the officer(s) who must accomplish their lawful objectives.”
The individuals against whom officers used force were between the ages of 18 and 51 and included 13 white men, three African American men and one Native American woman, according to the report.
The report says officers documented three personal weapons and/or control holds used “that resulted in the subject being injured or struck on the head,” four pepper spray incidents, one police service dog “deployment” resulting in a bite and nine Taser incidents. During one incident, a Taser was deployed twice unsuccessfully.
In five incidents involving Taser deployment, the summary notes that the arrestee was taken to the hospital for treatment. Medics treated four individuals sprayed with pepper spray at the scene. In two other Taser incidents and the one bite from a police service dog, it is unclear how or whether the arrestees received medical treatment.
A majority of the incidents involved individuals who were reportedly resisting arrest. In one incident, an officer reportedly tackled a man during a domestic disturbance. The man struck his head on the ground and lost consciousness briefly, so he was taken to the hospital for treatment, according to the report. In another, a suspected shoplifter slipped on ice while attempting to flee on foot, according to the report.
One incident involved a report of a suicidal man who was armed with a knife and threatening self-harm. The summary says the officers attempted to deescalate the situation, but the man was uncooperative and eventually began walking toward officers with the knife in his hand. Two Taser deployments were unsuccessful and the man fled on foot, but he ended up surrendering without further incident and was taken to the hospital for preexisting injuries, according to the report.
The summary notes only one incident in which an officer was taken to the hospital for serious injuries: On Jan. 22, 2019, officers were dispatched to a noninjury crash near Sixth Street and Wakarusa Drive. After a field sobriety test, the officer attempted to arrest the male driver, but the driver broke free from the officer’s grasp and took a swing at the officer’s head, according to the report.
A foot pursuit followed, and during a second struggle the officer tried to use an extendable baton on the driver’s legs, missed and fell to the ground on top of the baton, according to the report. The officer suffered serious injuries and was taken to the hospital for treatment; the driver was not injured, the report says.
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Formal complaints were not filed in either of the following two incidents about which the Journal-World has reported, but the department initiated internal reviews after seeing posts on social media, according to a spokesman. Neither incident is included in the 2019 use of force summary.
• On June 29, 2019, Duc M. Tran, 44, of Lawrence, was arrested after being stopped for skateboarding in the street, he previously told the Journal-World. Tran said he never threatened the officer who stopped him, Brad Williams; however, LPD said that Tran “shouted at and approached the officer with a skateboard raised overhead in a manner which led the officer to believe the subject was about to inflict immediate bodily harm upon the officer.”
Tran said Williams took him to the ground to arrest him, and he was screaming that his arm was broken when Williams twisted his left arm behind his back. Tran said he was diagnosed with a fractured elbow; he had scrapes on his shoulders and legs, and he thought both his shoulders were dislocated during the arrest.
Tran was charged Sept. 6 with three misdemeanors: interference with law enforcement, assault of a law enforcement officer and failure to obey lawful order of a police officer or fireman. LPD spokesperson Patrick Compton said that under department policy, investigations will not be conducted while judicial processes are pending, without approval from the police chief.
However, “Interim Chief Anthony Brixius has asked to review all current open (Office of Professional Accountability) investigations, and directed that this one proceed despite pending court proceedings,” Compton said via email Monday. “There is no timeline on when this may be completed, but it is being actively reviewed at this time.”
Williams was not placed on administrative leave, Sgt. Amy Rhoads confirmed via email Wednesday. Although Tran sought medical treatment, this incident was not included in the 2019 summary because no injury was reported at the time the incident occurred, Rhoads said, and an allegation of an injury was later learned through a social media post.
• Police began investigating an incident on Nov. 26, 2019, after a social media poster said he saw an officer punching a handcuffed arrestee in the face.
However, supervisors and the OPA determined that “the officers did not strike the individual in the face, and the response to resistance was appropriate given the situation and its circumstances.”
“We reached out to the poster via social media and received no response. We also solicited the public’s help in coming forward with information about the incident,” Compton said.
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