Thursday, July 17, 2014

Salt Lake Tribune: Police Detail What Went Wrong in Fatal Shootout With Matthew David Stewart - Updated

Internal review says officers made mistakes before and during the fatal drug raid on Matthew David Stewart’s home.

As a followup our earlier reporting on the January 4, 2012 Matthew Stewart matter, we'll direct our readers' attention to this morning's Salt Lake Tribune story, focusing on "[a] summary of the Ogden Police Department’s internal shooting review report, released this week as part of a Salt Lake Tribune open-records request, showing that many policy violations..."  contributed to the carnage which occurred on that fateful night in 2012.

Notably, The Trib has expended substantial effort in prying this information loose. "The Tribune requested internal police reviews in May 2013, shortly after Matthew David Stewart, who was charged with shooting the officers, committed suicide at the Weber County jail and his criminal case was closed. The police department denied the request, citing privacy issues.
The Tribune appealed the decision to Ogden’s records review board — which also denied the request.
In February of this year, The Tribune filed a lawsuit in 2nd District Court seeking the report.
The release of the report — actually an eight-page summary of the internal reviews— was the result of out-of-court negotiations between the two parties after the lawsuit was filed," according to this story's sidebar note.

Read up, folks.  This story of massive across-the board police incompetence is a real doozy -- a major screwup which ultimately cost two human lives:
Here's the scathing full summary, for those readers who'd like to go to the direct source material:
We'd label it a "comedy of errors," folks, but frankly, this story ain't the least bit funny.

Among "the policy changes [that] have helped remedy issues of conflicting policies between police agencies that serve on the strike force, and also helped make officers safer."  And in that connection, and the wake of this horribly botched police raid, we'll make note of this:
It [has now become] a requirement that all officers must wear "full entry gear" when entering a home during search warrant service, and that supervisors must do a gear check before entry.
Seems that the "macho" cops of Ogden haven't even learned even the first lesson from this fiasco, No?

Which lesson ought to be.... you don't place human lives in danger to bust a so-called "low-level marijuana guy"  in the first place.

Bonus Question: Isn't it about time for the Utah legislature to weigh in on this? Seems major Utah legislation limiting these door-busting home invasions to situations where human life is already at risk would be good start.

Update 7/18/14 8:00 a.m.: Police reform advocate Radley Balko is now all over this story; and he's pulling no punches at all:
"One might suggest that the fact that Stewart was a “low-level marijuana guy” would be a good reason to leave the battering ram at the police station. Had they done a little more investigating, they might have learned that Stewart worked at Walmart. Perhaps they could have sent a couple uniformed cops to arrest him at his job. Better yet, a little more investigation might have revealed the fact that Stewart wasn’t selling or distributing his pot to anyone — that it was for his own personal use — and concluded that it would be best to just leave him alone. God forbid. [Sadly,] [t]hat isn’t how [Ogden Police Chief] Ashment sees it."


AWM said...

The Shooting Review Summary reads like a comedy of errors. This type of rank incompetence in the private sector would result in numerous firings. One officer dead, several wounded, and one citizen found hanging in jail. But in O-Town nobody lost their job. Most troubling is that rather than recommend reevaluation or terminating the policy of forced para-military entry when a non-violent crime is "thought" to have been committed the board recommends up-gearing officers to full entry gear, ballistic shields, mirrors, rams and hooligan and lastly, convert shotguns to accept tactical slings. Wow! just wow. My comment doesn't even begin to address the almost sickening lead-in of Police Chief Mike Ashment defending his officers with words like "hero's" and "heroic actions".
Chief Ashment, one more time because it appears you're just not listening..."FOR 16 POT PLANTS GROWN BY A NON- VIOLENT, NO-PRIORS, HONORABLY DISCHARGED, ACTIVELY EMPLOYED, TAXPAYING CITIZEN WITH NO INTENT TO DISTRIBUTE law enforcement risked numerous officers lives and those of innocent citizens and their children in the immediate area. And with a straight face you stand in front of a podium and tell the folks who pay yours, and your departments wages this was not an excessive use of force for the situation. As it was you're damn lucky Matt had a 9mm and not an M1A and a couple of 2-3 20 rounds clips that day.

John B. said...

I don't think the copper's will ever admit that the very basis for the search was wrong.

rudizink said...

Exceptional comment from the Trib reader comment section:

Roger Wilco

Ogden Police Chief Ashment has no clue what the public is concerned about. He thinks that because some of his officers didn't have vests on shows that his force isn't "over-militarized." No, Chief. It shows your force is under-trained and that's your fault. You have military grade weaponry but very little of the training and rules of engagement. Why else are your officers putting each other at risk of cross fire and putting bullets into other peoples homes that are possibly occupied? That's the concern people have.

Your force has the vests. It also has the assault weapons, armored vehicles, .50 cal rifles and who knows what else. Over-militarization means that you have the weapons that lead you to train with tactics that more quickly escalate and lead to loss of life. If you don't have those things, not unlike many other police forces in the world, you would first do everything you could to build a prosecutable case. But your force is under-trained, lazy and well armed. That's a really dangerous combination and that's what the public is afraid of.

blackrulon said...

I do not see how the ogden Police Department could have been this sloppy. When Matthew Godfrey was Mayor he often mentioned, as a reason for keeping Jon Greiner, how exceptional the department was under Greiner leadership. Whart happened? Did it just go right to hell after Caldwell fired Greiner as chief?

AWM said...

Add this as another entry in what is an ever increasing list were a hot button issue that affects almost all of O-Town was failed to be commented on by duly elected Mayor Ten-Speed Caldwell. His silence at a minimum "implies" he condones the current status quo of the entry policy used by his city's police department. Still, I'd like to hear what HE has to say on the issue.

Bob Becker said...

The major conclusion of the review seems to be "we weren't armed and armored enough." Roger Wilco is right. The chief doesn't seem to have a clue.

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