State police chiefs association president responds to indictments
As the president of the California Police Chiefs Association, Richard Word hears lots of things from around the state.
But, Word said he's never heard of commanding officers being criminally charged for the decisions they make, like the case just getting underway here with former Eureka Police Chief David Douglas and Eureka Police Lt. Tony Zanotti, who are facing involuntary manslaughter charges.
Police departments and chiefs throughout the state have taken notice, and will follow the case against Douglas and Zanotti closely, he said.
”This has really sent shock waves throughout departments in the state,” Word said. “We're shocked. The e-mails are flying.”
The Humboldt County District Attorney's Office officially announced Dec. 10 the criminal grand jury convened to look into the 2006 shooting death of Cheri Lyn Moore indicted Douglas and Zanotti on involuntary manslaughter charges for their decision making roles in the incident.
The indictments are raising major concerns for law enforcement agencies across the state and the nation, Word said. Locally, Eureka has pledged to help pay Douglas' legal bills and a group of citizens is banding together with plans to publicly
pledge their support for the indicted officers.
Moore, who had a history of mental illness, was shot by Eureka police officers in her apartment at Fifth and G streets after a two-hour standoff in which she brandished a flare gun, threw items from her apartment and threatened to burn the building down.
Police have said they believed Moore had put down the flare gun when the decision was made to storm her apartment. When officers came face to face with Moore, who they say had a flare gun pointed at them, they shot her multiple times.
Legal experts have said the indictments seem to indicate the grand jury felt the decision to enter Moore's apartment amounted to criminal negligence, and EPD should have spent more time negotiating with Moore, or tried to force her from her apartment with non-lethal means, like tear gas.
During a coroner's inquest held last year, Zanotti testified that Moore was an immediate threat to the building, responding officers and human life.
Word said he's received a rash of e-mails since the indictments were handed up, asking what the indictments are all about, if officers should write letters in support of the officers to the district attorney and if the indictments were politically motivated.
”We're all asking what's driving this, that's the big question,” Word said.
While the indictments could give officers in similar situations pause, Word said that's not his major concern. He said his major worry is that this will make police chiefs more likely to take control of these types of tactical operations.
”If you're going to face a potential indictment, you're probably going to take a lot of the decision making powers out of your commanding officers' hands, and you're going to get your butt down there,” Word said, adding that might not be a good thing.
SWAT and tactical response team commanders are extensively trained in how to deal with these situations, Word said, and are really better prepared to make those types of decisions. But, Word said the recent indictments may cause chiefs to none-the-less take control of operations in an effort to shield their officers from facing criminal charges.
”We know the threat of a civil suit is always present, but if you're going to face criminal charges, that's a whole new ball game,” Word said. “And, I think the response from some is going to be to take matters into their own hands.”
Chris Shean, a hostage negotiator with the Seattle Police Department, agreed with Word. He said SWAT teams sometimes have problems with lieutenants taking command of a scene, and the prospect of police chiefs, who are generally further removed from SWAT and tactical response training, doing so is even more worrisome.
”That could potentially open a real can of worms, and potentially cause a delay in a situation that needs to be acted on quickly,” Shean said, adding that his department will keep a close eye on Zanotti and Douglas case. “We will, and so will the Western States Hostage Negotiators' Association because it could determine policy.”
Also shocked at news of the indictments, one local group is taking matters into its own hands.
Chris Crawford said he and a group of citizens are in the process of creating a fundraising organization that will launch a public relations campaign in support of Douglas and Zanotti. Lots of people, Crawford said, don't support the indictments.
”It ain't just the cops,” Crawford said. “It's Joe and Jane Six Pack and a whole bunch of other people that are upset at this perversion of justice.”
The new organization, which Crawford said will launch its Web site -- www.freetheepd2.com -- shortly, aims to run some advertisements and hold some rallies to pledge support for the two officers. The organization will be fielding donations, Crawford said, and whatever is left over from the public relations campaign will be put toward the officers' legal defense fund.
Crawford was careful to say his organization is not endorsed by EPD nor the Eureka Police Foundation.
”We're just doing it because it's the right thing to do,” Crawford said.
The Eureka City Council also decided Thursday to form a fund to help with Douglas' legal bills, in addition to giving the former chief $75,000 from its general fund, with the option of contributing more down the road.
As the case moves toward trial, one thing is for sure: Many eyes will be watching.
”We're paying close attention,” Word said. “It's really concerning to chiefs across the state. We're certainly wishing the best for (Douglas) and Lt. Zanotti -- this is just unprecedented.”
How to contribute to city's defense fund for David Douglas:
Send checks made out to the City of Eureka, with David Douglas written in the “for” line, to City Hall, 531 K St., Eureka, CA 95502. Councilman Larry Glass said the checks would only be cashed if needed.
Thadeus Greenson The Times-Standard
Article Launched: 12/24/2007 01:32:24 AM PST\
Thadeus Greenson can be reached at 441-0509 or email@example.com
April 27, 2006 SCENES FROM A SHOOTING - friends, bystanders, activists, police and the death of Cheri Moore
September 21. 2006 CAUSE OF DEATH - Questions answered and questions raised in the Cheri Lynn Moore inquest
ER Music, shots, then silence 4/15/2006
ER Investigation launched into police involved shooting 4/15/2006
ER Police respond to fatal shooting of Eureka woman 4/16/2006
TS Eureka shooting tragedy runs deep 04/16/2006
ER In aftermath of shooting, many questions remain 4/17/2006
TS Questions swirl around standoff shooting 04/18/2006
TS Haunted by the past 04/19/2006
ER Group gathers to remember Cheri Moore 4/19/2006
TS Police remain tight-lipped on shooting 04/20/2006
TS Lethal Weapon - Was it “just a flare gun”? 04/21/2006
ER Dispatch logs of fatal shooting made public 4/21/2006
ER Reserve judgment on shooting; question about timing lingers 4/23/2006
TS 'Force options' 04/24/2006
TS Shooting damage 'profound' 04/25/2006
TS City won't hand over 911 tapes 04/26/2006
TS 'Parallel' options 04/28/2006
ER Preliminary results indicate officers followed protocol4/28/2006
TS Shooting: ”Legal and lawful” 04/28/2006
ER Meeting about police review coalition turns to discussions of April 14 shooting 4/28/2006
ER Cheri Moore's son speaks out 4/28/2006
ER Idea of Police Review Coalition discussed with City Council subcommittee 4/29/2006
ER Moore shooting headed for Grand Jury? 5/25/2006
ER Police chief said he stands by his officers' actions in shooting 7/21/2006
ER Coroner's inquest into police-involved shooting rescheduled 7/24/2006
ER MOORE INQUEST MAY BE TELEVISED 8/30/2006
ER Inquest should include still photos 8/30/2006
ER Coroner's inquest into death of Cheri Moore will start today 9/12/2006
TS Inquest testimony begins today - 11 jurors sworn in for rare court proceeding 09/12/2006
TS Neighbors, friends and SWAT commander testify during inquest's second half 09/12/2006
TS The last inquest - Moore shooting circumstances far more complicated 09/12/2006
TS Witnesses begin testifying in Moore case 09/12/2006
TS Witnesses from the First Day of the Moore Inquest 09/12/2006
TS 'I was scared' - Officers who fired fatal shots testify 09/13/2006
TS Incident commander testifies at coroner's inquest 09/13/2006
TS Witnesses from the Third Day of the Moore Inquest 09/14/2006
ER NINE MORE TAKE THE STAND 9/14/2006
TS Officer, chief take stand in Moore inquest 09/14/2006
ER Final nine testify at coroner's inquest 9/15/2006
TS Jury makes three recommendations after inquest 09/15/2006
And then the tortuous delay fraught with threats - Rumors, Leaks, and the Grand Jury Indictment:
ER A grim anniversary passes without resolution 4/13/2007
TS Gallegos: Retrial will 'likely' delay Moore decision 07/13/2007
TS Countdown to a decision 07/23/2007
TS Police Chief hopes grand jury proceedings are made public 11/08/2007
Who owns the 'facts'? 12/11/2007
TS EPD, other law enforcement turn out to support Zanotti, Douglas 12/11/2007
TS Gallegos to handle police prosecution 12/13/2007
ER City to assist with costs of former police chief's defense
TS Ex-chief garners $75K for his defense 12/21/2007
TS State police chiefs association president responds to indictments 12/24/07
ER Ltr Everyone needs to be treated with compassion, respect 4/19/2006
ER Ltr Don't rush to judgment in police shooting 4/19/2006
TS Blue lights can show support
TS State police chiefs association president responds to indictments
Letters: More To come (TK)
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