Outside investigator's conclusions undercut brutality claim

I got falsely arrested, ass[a]ulted, racially profiled, abused, illegally searched, all with falsified evidence by the Arlington Police Department MA."

-- Unidentified Somerville resident described the alleged abuse on Facebook."

Michael A. L'HeureuxL'Heureux of Bedrock Investigations

Shocking allegations of police brutality brought by an unidentified Somerville resident, supported by a series of videos shot near Homewood Suites in February, are offset by a report from an independent investigator.

A 42-page report by Michael A. L'Heureux, principal of Bedrock Investigations of Bedford, provides evidence discounting that the brutality occurred but questions the actions of a town officer who pursued a suspect into Somerville.

The report also makes recommendations for police training, which Chief Julie Flaherty says have been instituted.

With the videos, shot by acquaintances, the Somerville resident described the alleged abuse on Facebook five days after the incidents:

The allegations

"I got falsely arrested, ass[a]ulted, racially profiled, abused, illegally searched, all with falsified evidence by the Arlington Police Department MA.

"I am only briefly explaining the events that took place as the officers who were handling me did much worse. I did nothing wrong and had no intention of meeting with anyone.

"I just went to cvs for a drink and came back. I was by myself in a very open area. A white kid I never knew, they never told me who he was, never told me what he did, nor never told me what I did with this kid. The officer who made the initial stop at me only said I was in the same room with him and a girl ...

"This white kid runs full speed by my right. At first I thought I was being robbed (ran up on). Then the cop comes running. He stopped right at me and we made eye contact. He yelled get on the fucking floor. The kid Immediately slid into the snow falling to his knees putting his hands on his head.

"I asked calmly to the officer multiple questions asking what’s going on. The cop then drew his gun but only on to me. He lied, said I wasn’t being arrested and that I was fine. Then his partners began pulling up ...."

The independent report

A probe of the events last Feb. 10 by an outside police investigator tell a far different story. The investigator's report dated March 29 makes these points about events that began as police checked into potential human trafficking at the hotel:

-- The preponderance of evidence demonstrates that Arlington police officers were acting in good faith while performing their duties that evening.

-- Officer Steven Conroy, acting on information that a known and wanted felon was involved in further suspicious activity in the hotel, chased the suspect on foot after he jumped out of the hotel room window in response to police knocking on the room door. But the investigation turned up no credible evidence linking the chased suspect to the other individuals involved at the incident at the hotel. It agreed with the Facebook poster who told police multiple times that he did not know the other male who was arrested with him.

-- Did Conroy have the authority to detain the suspect he pursued outside of Arlington? "Not only was there no arrestable offense committed by" the suspect; "there is no evidence to support he had committed any crime up to to the point of the stop," the report says.

The probe found Conroy's use of force to be reasonable, as per department policy. The officer followed the use-of-force continuum, using verbal commands for a passive-resistant person, then escalating appropriately, by using an arm-bar takedown technique, when the suspect began to actively resist. The suspect was placed in handcuffs following a brief struggle on the ground.

2 deny knee on back

The report says: "No punches were thrown, and no distraction techniques, i.e, Knee strikes, were employed. Both officers [Conroy and Flynn] deny placing their knee on the back of [redacted] neck, and other than that claim by [redacted] that an officer threw him to the ground, and out his knee on the neck, L'Heureux found no evidence to support that claim."

Pursuing a suspect beyond Arlington drew this comment: " ... [I]t remains unclear to this investigator whether the department has the authority to authorize extraterritorial use of force. During a false arrest, is any use of force justified? The Arlington Police Department should pose these questions to the appropriate legal/labor counsel, representing the town, for further clarification and disposition."

L'Heureux found no evidence to support that a firearm was displayed and pointed at a suspect, who "said he thought it was a gun, but he was unable to describe it .... When L'Heureux asked him if it was possible that the officer had been holding a flashlight, police baton, or a Taser, he said he 'thought it was a gun, maybe a Taser.'" All officers at the scene denied displaying a firearm or seeing a firearm displayed at any time. No witnesses or video evidence have been produced to support that a firearm was displayed.

Profiling addressed

The report found no evidence of racial profiling.

"While it is impossible to know an individual's implicit biases," L'Heureux wrote, he found no evidence to support the claim by the Facebook poster that he had been racially profiled by Arlington police. In an interview with L'Heureux, Conroy "absolutely denied that race played a role in his decision to stop [redacted]." Conroy said he could not tell what race he was until he caught up to them on Alewife Brook Parkway.

L'Heureux's full report, which YourArlington received from Chief Flaherty on June 14 after the website began requesting it earlier, details the investigation, including these further Feb. 15 comments from the Facebook poster:

"[An officer] Claimed I was being chased down with the other kid to them when I never even ran. He claimed I was resisting threw me into the snow. He grabbed my head whip[p]ed my head on the snow surface, and then put his knee on my neck while my face was buried in the snow.

"I screamed I couldn’t breath and for god for something to help. It was only then that my screams reached two people in their car because their windows were open.

"They got out the car on the highway and began recording. All while this was going on they put the kid who committed the crime in the cruiser and drove him to the station from what I believe.

"The police brought me to the crime scene which was not anywhere where I had ever been. Took all my things and made me walk back home with just my keys and Id which I had to ask back for. The next day 02.11.21 I had went to the Arlington police station to retrieve my things. The chief of police let me get all my items back and apologized for what happen to me because 'he made the call it was meant for sex trafficking. [They] only meant to grab one person.'

"This is the Arlington Police in Massachusetts ... #arlingtonma #boston #policebrutalities #blacklivesmatter #massachusetts #BLM #whitepriveledge #newengland #somervillema #viral #covid19"

Poster asked to comment, recommendations

The author of this post was provided with the investigator's report and was asked to comment, but has not yet responded. The post's author is not identified, because the author faced no charges.

L'Heureux's report concludes suggesting recommendations to be considered by the Arlington Police Department. They are:

1. Provide additional training to all officers, on the Middlesex Chiefs of Police Association Interagency Mutual Aid Agreement. As to the procedure of when, and how to utilize it, in the event of future extraterritorial stops, outside of the jurisdiction of the Town of Arlington.

2. Reinforce the significance, and importance, of following the Arlington Police Department Polices & Procedures, on the proper method of handcuffing a person in custody, specifically the practice of double locking the handcuffs. By insuring the proper technique is applied, it will reduce the number of potential injuries, to the person the handcuffs have been placed on, as it will be impossible to intentionally, or accidentally, tighten the handcuffs.

3. Review policy & procedures, to insure the protocol includes, assigning a supervisor to respond to all calls of a serious nature, unless circumstances prevent the response; i.e., staffing levels, call volume etc.

4. Provide remedial training, on proper evidence seizure, and the handling of said evidence. In this incident, there were items seized, i.e., PS4 Game Controller, Apple Ear Buds, that held held no evidentiary value for the proposed criminal charges. [redacted] alleges, when his property was returned, his PS4 Game Controller had been broken, and one of his ear buds was missing. He also alleges his jacket was torn by officers conducting the search of his person.

In response to YourArlington queries about these conclusions, Chief Flaherty wrote via email:APD logo

  • The investigation cost $5,198.50.
  • As to whether she is satisfied with it, she wrote: "I take all complaints very seriously, and every complaint that I receive is investigated thoroughly. We brought in an independent investigator to look into this matter to determine if any of the Arlington Police Departments policies or procedures were violated. I believe the investigation was very detailed, and I am satisfied with the recommendations that were a result of the investigation."
  • As to whether recommendations have been put into effect, she wrote: "The investigator recommended additional training for officers on certain policies and procedures. That has been completed."
  • Based on the chief's Feb. 17 blog post about this incident, YourArlington reported earlier that an unidentified officer had been on leave, but the Bedrock report says "no formal complaint has been filed as of this date." Asked to clarify, Flaherty identified the officer who was put on administrative leave as Conroy. "A formal complaint was made to the independent investigator by the complainant along with his attorney; prior to that, the complainant released a social media post alleging that officers involved in the incident violated Arlington Police Department Policy and Procedures. Officer Conroy was on administrative leave for 35 days while the matter was investigated."

Read the full report from which these points were taken >> 
Feb. 18, 2021: Police officer on leave amid probe into man's treatment during drug arrest

This news summary was published Wednesday, July 7, 2021.

 
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