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."
Yes...it'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.