Friday, November 5, 2010

Mayoral Candidates React to Piland Decision

I’m sure most of you have heard by now, Officer Jerry Piland was exonerated by the IMPD Merit Board in the case of the brutalization of Brandon Johnson.

Despite the findings of fact in IMPD’s own internal investigation and the strong recommendation to fire Piland from Chief Paul Ciesielski, the Merit Board voted 6-1 against the Chief and for Piland. Afterwards, as he spoke to his fellow officers, Piland showed little regret or humility. According to Channel 13, Piland said, "I appreciate every single text message you have sent me in the last five months, every single thought, card, everything...Because that is what this profession is about,is that right there, it's about us. We got to work everyday for us and that's what matters and that shows here today. We all know that everybody wanted to make this about something it wasn't, but we're here and that's what counts and I appreciate it guys. Thank you very much."'s about you, Officer Piland. It's all about you. (Hopefully you detected the sarcasm there.)

Understandably, Mayor Greg Ballard was disappointed in the decision by the Merit Board as was Ciesielski. Johnson’s legal team says the case is far from over.

For their part, two of Indy’s Democratic Mayoral candidates weighed in on the decision in short statements. Councillor Jose Evans said:

I am disgusted and appalled by the Merit Board’s decision not to uphold Chief Ciesielski’s recommendation to fire Officer Piland. The case proved that Officer Piland used excessive force against Brandon Johnson. "The level of force that Officer Piland was exhibiting at this point was not a 'hard empty hand,'" said Sgt. Scott Hessong, IMPD Internal Affairs. Hessong said it was "deadly force." This case also showed that Brandon Johnson did not resist to a level that would justify the force that was used against him. There is no doubt in my mind that Office Piland crossed the line and that this decision is a slap in the face to the Johnson family and to our community.

Former Deputy Mayor Melina Kennedy said:

As a mother, the pictures of Brandon Johnson made me sick for him and his family. The pictures show that he was brutally treated. I’m disappointed with this administration’s actions and with this result. Brandon Johnson deservers (sic) better and Indianapolis deserves better.

Ron Gibson also has released a statement. The former City-County Councillor even advocates returning IMPD to a non-merit department. I publish it as it came from Gibson:

“Today’s verdict by the Indianapolis Police Merit Board of 'not guilty' says that the current lack of cultural sensitivity and bad actions of a few officers is acceptable within IMPD. This is wrong and justice needs to be served. By no means does this verdict restore the public’s confidence in its police department”, said Mayoral Candidate Ron Gibson.

"Despite this verdict, the Mayor and Public Safety Director should take the appropriate personnel actions to ensure change in the culture within IMPD, increase efforts to recruit diversity into the department, and conduct a thorough review of the rules of appropriate behavior by sworn officers", said Gibson.

"It appears that the conduct of Officer Bisard and Officer Piland are to be condoned, regardless of the efforts of Chief Cieselski (sic) and other senior personnel. Mayor Ballard and the City-County Council need to seriously review and revise the parameters of the Police Merit Board. Allowing such despicable behavior by IMPD officers, in spite of the Chief's efforts to improve the force, is unacceptable to the City's communities. If review suggests elimination of the Police Merit Board, so be it! After all, we have a Chief and deputies to manage the force, with a Public Safety Director between the Chief and the Mayor. This decision highly suggests that the Police Merit Board is an anachronism; with decisions such as this, it should be eliminated" said Gibson.

The Baptist Ministers Alliance of Indianapolis' reaction was published in a Star report earlier today. Here is that article.

It looks like this issue won't be going away for Mayor Ballard and Public Safety Director Frank Straub.


Anonymous said...

The merit board should have followed the police chief recommendation, however, it should be mentioned that this young man was behaving completely inappropriately and his brother was suspected of breaking into a neighbors home.

He is not a hero, he is a thug that should be given much better guidance from adults.

Jon E. Easter said...

As a member of the Merit Board for the Decatur Township Fire Department, I can say that the job of the Commission member is to review the facts of the case and come to his or her own vote. While I disagree with the decision that IMPD's Merit Board made, I believe that Merit Boards, in general, should not just blindly follow the recommendation of a chief.

In this case, I believe they should have.

Anonymous said...

Really? So you'd violate your own standard in order to meet a pre-arranged conclusion? Not rely on testimony and evidence entered for consideration, and just say screw it, he's GOT to be guilty? Sad. PS-the majority of the Merit board are holdovers from the Peterson administration.

Jon E. Easter said...

Wow, I did just contradict myself. Good catch anon.

What I meant was that given the facts, the pictures, the testimony, and the internal investigation, I'd say that the Chief had his ducks in a row, and I would have upheld the decision.

I'm not on the board though.

Indy Student said...

Jon, you mention "the pictures." Accorind go Piland's testimony, he didn't hit Johnson's face. He hit his right shoulder, I believe twice.

An ER doc from Wishard said the wounds on Johnson's face are more likely to be caused from the fall to the ground while resisting arrest rather than from force caused from a human because that would show greater force and break more bones. Johnson walked out of the hospital with a broken nose and little else.

I'm not using this incident to score points against whom I disagree with, but there just seems to be a lack of evidence that Piland was the cause of the alleged brutality. And, with all the BS that the chief, The Good Doctor Straub, and Ballard have fed us SINCE this incident happened, I can't exactly take their word now.

Anonymous said...

as a veteran police officer who is keeping an open mind to kennedy i am disappointed she would base her comments on only the photo of johnson.

as an attorney and public figure she should certainly know better.

this harkens back to obama and his cambridge quotes based on what he heard and not on the facts; the quotes he had to retract less than 24 hours later.

melina, if ou are going to lead this police department you need to do better. i dont think it benefits the democrats to have her take this stand.

Anonymous said...

Jon, did you see the testimony? Or are you just relying on the news reports?

But even the news reports made clear that Piland's attorneys caught every one of the City's witnesses in lies. It was also clear from the testimony of the officers who testified on behalf of the city that there was tremendous political pressure put on them to come to the decision to terminate Piland.

Also, it was quite clear the City's attorney was, shall we say, out of his league.

As you know, the Merit Board is allowed to ask questions of the all the witnesses. I was struck by how often they did so, especially the older African American woman whose name escapes me. She seemed to very deliberately weighing the evidence.

Jon E. Easter said...

It also shows that two of the three candidates worked so quickly to get statements out that they left in spelling errors and typos.

Kennedy's release had "deservers"

Gibson's release misspelled the Chief's name.