KOLD INVESTIGATES: New sheriff, same policies despite lawsuit - Tucson News Now

KOLD INVESTIGATES: New sheriff, same policies despite lawsuit

TUCSON, AZ (Tucson News Now) -

Pima County Sheriff Mark Napier told Tucson News Now he has not ordered any changes in training or policies when it comes to responding to domestic violence calls.

Tucson News Now asked the sheriff about this, in light of a jury verdict last year ruling the "call out and containment" policy unconstitutional. In call out and containment, deputies handcuff anyone at the scene of a domestic violence call and then sort out if any crime has been committed.

Sheriff Napier is now a party to the suit, although the incidents in question happened several years before he took office.

We had asked him about the situation before he took office, and he said he would look into it once he was sworn in. He also said he couldn’t speak about the lawsuit because of the appeal.

In November 2016, Tucson News Now investigated the lawsuit, the PCSD's policies and here is what we uncovered.

Sheriff's department accused of unconstitutional policy

The Fourth Amendment of the U.S. Constitution guarantees your rights against illegal search and seizure.

Eva Jackson is suing the Pima County Sheriff's Department for allegedly violating those rights.

"I was scared for my life knowing all these guns were pointed at me," she said. "And not knowing why. I asked the entire way, 'What's going on? Why are you doing this?' I didn't get any kind of response."

Jackson is speaking exclusively to Tucson News Now about what happened during a quiet night in 2013. She said deputies came to her front door in Three Points, southwest of Tucson, and forced her and her family outside at gunpoint and handcuffed them.

What Jackson didn't know at the time was a man called 911 and claimed he heard shots fired and screaming from the home next to Jackson.

Sheriff's deputies investigated at that home and didn't find anything out of the ordinary. The caller, who was in the area, then told deputies he might have heard the shots fired from Jackson's home.

In fact, the PCSD knew the man who made the 911 call was mentally unstable and had a history of making false calls - but that information didn't make it to the deputies on the scene.

THE FOURTH AMENDMENT

The right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects, against unreasonable searches and seizures, shall not be violated, and no warrants shall issue, but upon probable cause, supported by oath or affirmation, and particularly describing the place to be searched, and the persons or things to be seized.

Three Points resident Rob Larson sued the Pima County Sheriff's Department and was awarded $1.3 million in April. (Source: Tucson News Now)

EVERYONE IN CUFFS

Tucson News Now has been digging into this case for three years and we spoke with Rob Larson, Jackson's neighbor.

Larson said he and his wife were sleeping when deputies banged on his door and ordered them outside at gunpoint. He sued and was awarded $1.3 million.

In April, a federal jury ruled PCSD violated his and his wife's Fourth Amendment rights, but the PCSD is appealing.

Tucson News Now poured over documents and testimony from the trial.

Department officials testified what deputies did on that night was "in compliance with PCSD policy" in responding to domestic violence calls.

The procedure is "call out and containment." The operations chief said deputies are supposed to "detain everybody" at a scene while they figure out what's going on and put "everyone into cuffs."

The court ruled that's basically "an arrest."

Mike Polakowski, right, a former police officer and current criminal justice professor at the University of Arizona, talks with Tucson News Now's Craig Thomas. (Source: Tucson News Now)

OPEN TO LAWSUITS

Mike Polakowski is a former police officer and current criminal justice professor at the University of Arizona.

Polakowski said "call out and containment" is used by departments all over the country. But officers are supposed to verify information and only use the policy if there's a legitimate threat.

"There's nothing that I've seen that suggests the officers responding did the basics that you would train officers to do," Polakowski said. "We have to have a reasonable suspicion. It can't just be a guess."

Polakowski said he thinks the Sheriff's department, therefore Pima County - and therefore you the taxpayer - could be on the hook for a lot of money.

"I think it opens them up to lawsuits for every instance in which they've contained people in a similar fashion."

Both the appeal of Larson's case and the Jackson case could be heard in 2017.

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