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Baltimore Police independent report into Tyrone West death

Baltimore Police independent report into Tyrone West death

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Published by Ian Duncan
Findings of an independent review board convened to examine the death of Tyrone West in the custody of the Baltimore Police Department. The report faults some aspects of the department's investigation and its communication with West's family.
Findings of an independent review board convened to examine the death of Tyrone West in the custody of the Baltimore Police Department. The report faults some aspects of the department's investigation and its communication with West's family.

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Published by: Ian Duncan on Aug 08, 2014
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08/22/2014

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In-Custody Fatality Independent Review Board for the Death of Tyrone West Findings and Recommendations
August 8, 2014
Independent Review Board Members
James K Stewart, Chair, Professor Amy Dillard, JD, Professor Patrick L. Finley, PhD, Chief Barney Melekian, DPPD, Dr. Hamin Shabazz, PhD and Dr. Shirley Thompson-Richard, M.D. This
report presents the Independent Review Board’s assessment
 of the official homicide investigation report, States Attorney Report, legal records, documents, evidence, photographs, audio statements, scene diagrams, and medical reports and documents pertaining to the in-custody death of Mr. Tyrone West at the Baltimore Police Department on July 18, 2013. The Independent Review Board is not an investigative body empowered to call witnesses, its resources are limited to volunteer assistance from Board members, and it is without professional analytic support. The Board consists of citizens with expertise in Constitutional Policing, Law Enforcement Best Practices, Police Accountability, Homicide Investigations, Forensic Analysis, Community Policing, Authority of Law, Defensive Tactics, Arrest and Control Techniques, Policing Theory, Laws of Arrest, Use of Force Policies and Practice, Internal Medicine, and Investigative Best Practices. The Independent Review Board is separate from the Baltimore Police Department and has no direct relationship with the police agency or the City of Baltimore, other than as citizen-volunteers and, in some cases, as residents.
 
In-Custody Fatality Independent Review Board Report on the Death of Tyrone West
i
Executive Summary:
 
The sudden death of Mr. Tyrone West on July 18, 2013 during an arrest by Baltimore Police Department officers was unexpected and produced some controversy among his family, community activists and the media. Soon after the death, the Police Commissioner convened an independent board of respected professionals from law enforcement, academia, and medical and legal professions to review the circumstances surrounding the incident and make, where appropriate, recommendations for improvement to prevent a similar recurrence. The Independent Review Board (hereafter referred to as
the ―
IRB
 
or ―Board‖)
 reviewed all reports, evidence, statements, and Baltimore Police Department (BPD) policies and training, in addition to requesting further information from BPD. The IRB conferred several times during the past four months and reached unanimous agreement on the incident findings and recommendations for improvement, all of which are presented in this report. The IRB concludes that Mr. West died suddenly while engaged in an extended period of resisting a lawful arrest by BPD. The postmortem examination report concluded that Mr. West
―died
 of Cardiac Arrhythmia due to Cardiac Conduction System Abnormality
complicated by Dehydration during Police Restraint.‖
According to the Medical Examiner, another factor that may have
―contributed to his death was the extreme
environmental temperatures, which were reported in the high 90s, with a heat index in the low 100s (degrees Fahrenheit)
.‖
 
The Autopsy revealed ―neither signs of asphyxia,
nor significant injury to vital structures
or vital areas of the body.‖
 Whenever physical force is employed in police-citizen encounters, there is always a risk of serious injury and, potentially, death. The law authorizes police officers to use only that force necessary to overcome resistance, to defend themselves, and to affect a lawful arrest. The IRB finds that the officers did not employ force beyond that which was necessary and reasonable to subdue an exceptionally strong and well-muscled suspect who was resisting a lawful arrest. The officers involved used less than lethal weapons and defensive tactics to attempt to control, restrain, and arrest Mr. West. The IRB noted, with concern, that the officers involved departed from some BPD policies and training and made several tactical errors that may have extended the length of the physical encounter, compromised officer safety, and potentially aggravated the situation.
After extensive review, the IRB reports 18 findings, which are broken into seven issue areas: 1.
 
Officer Judgment/Decision-Making 2.
 
Transfer Criteria for Specialized High-Discretion Units (i.e., Northeast Operations Unit) 3.
 
Use of Force Policies 4.
 
Officer Tactical Procedures and Techniques
 
In-Custody Fatality Independent Review Board Report on the Death of Tyrone West
ii
5.
 
Professional and Objective Investigative Protocols 6.
 
Care of Life and Emergency Lifesaving Protocols 7.
 
Communications/Transparency The IRB findings indicate that the arresting officers did not follow BPD guidelines during several aspects of this incident; there were also several tactical errors in their attempts to control the situation. The report also offers 34 recommendations to improve BPD training, investigations, supervision, officer accountability and communication with the community. Table 1: Summary of Issue Areas, Findings and Recommendations
Issue Areas Findings Recommendations 1. Officer Judgment/Decision Making
1.1 The officers’ tactical
decisions did not follow BPD procedures 1.1.1 The BPD should better supervise officers in the Northeast Operations Unit (especially when working in non-uniform assignments) and provide them with specific directions that more carefully focus their activities on high-probability evidence-based stops, searches, and arrests. 1.1.2 The BPD should conduct a full review of the tactics and decisions made in future incidents that led up to the use of force and retrain the officers involved (and other patrol officers) to be alert for lapses in practice that can threaten officer safety. 1.1.3 BPD training should include de-escalation methods and tactical disengagement defensive tactics.

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