Earlier this week, outgoing County Attorney Barbara LaWall elected not to prosecute the three officers involved in the death of Carlos Ingram-López. Neither I, my colleagues nor Chief Christopher Magnus have any authority to tell the County Attorney’s office what to do in this case. It is worth noting that all three officers left the Tucson Police Department shortly after this case came to light.
However, there is a lot we as city officials can learn from this tragedy. In July, Chief Magnus convened a “Sentinel Event Review Board.” This process is relatively new to public safety but has long been used in industries ranging from medicine to transportation to study major mistakes. The mission of these boards is not to find fault or dole out punishment, but to find where there are systemic issues that need to be fixed to either prevent or lessen the likelihood of their being a similar problem in the future.
The board met for four successive Wednesdays in July and included police commanders, a representative from the Tucson Police Officers Association, an assistant fire chief, the director of our Public Safety Communications Department as well as members of the community. A member of my staff sat on the board as well.
In addition to the death of Ingram-López, the board also reviewed the case of Damian Alvarado, who died under similar circumstances a month before. They also examined how the cases were handled within the department and how the public was notified.
The problems in the Ingram-López case started with the initial 911 call. The lack of availability of a Spanish speaking operator led to delays and the inability to give crucial information to the officers that responded. The panel recommended training 911 operators in conversational Spanish and having advanced speakers be available.
The committee also addressed restraints. In both cases, a spit sock (a mesh covering that goes over the head) was used on the suspects, which made it harder for the officers, and in the case of Alvarado, paramedics, to evaluate their health as they experienced excited delirium. The committee came up with a series of recommendations for the use of spit socks as well as another item called the total appendage restraint or TARP. The recommendations also included new evaluation procedures for TPD and TFD personnel that respond to situations involving individuals with excited delirium.
These were only a few of the 53 recommendations that the board came up with. You can take a look at the report; it’s been posted.
There are already changes implemented, some inspired by the discussion at the board and some from TPD’s own internal examination.
Uses of force have long been subject to a review; these uses of force covered actions such as discharging a firearm, deploying a taser or even using a fist. As of August, use of restraints such as a spit sock or a TARP are now considered uses of force.
We saw a bit of what that meant last week. An officer deployed a TARP against a suspect. When the incident was reviewed and body camera video was examined, it was found that he had assaulted the suspect after he had been restrained. The officer was arrested and resigned the next day, and the public was informed about the incident soon after.
While the speed with which that event was dealt with is an improvement over how the incidents in March and April were handled, there is still a lot more we can do. I look forward to working with my colleagues and TPD leadership to enact these recommendations.
Community members on the West Side have been asking for Christopher Columbus Park to be renamed. On Tuesday, Councilmember Santa Cruz will be asking my colleagues and I to start the renaming process, which will involve the community. I support starting that process.
The City will be doing another mask distribution event at Udall Park (7200 E Tanque Verde) on Tuesday, Sept. 29, 5-7 pm. Masks will be provided throughout the event or until they have all been distributed. The events will be set up as drive-thrus, where community members can drive up to the site, advise how many masks they need, and the masks will be passed out. Bike-up and walk-up requests are also welcome.
You have until September 30, that’s next Wednesday, to complete your 2020 census form. Responses help determine the number of seats each state has in Congress and guide how nearly $700 billion in federal funding is spent in communities each year. It’s estimated up to $3,000 per person, per year is at stake for Arizona. The deadline to complete the form is Sept. 30. Please visit Census2020.gov.