Police Release Summary Report of March 11, 2019 Incident

POUGHKEEPSIE – City of Poughkeepsie officials released the following summary of a police report regarding a March 11, 2019 incident involving juveniles fighting in the street.
The Incident

At approximately 4 p.m. on March 11, 2019, City of Poughkeepsie Police Department personnel were dispatched to Church Street and Hammersley Avenue for a report of approximately 15-20 juveniles fighting in the street.

The Officers on scene took action to break up the fight, clear up lanes of traffic and disperse the crowd.

As a result of the incident, two arrests were made: Juvenile 1 and Juvenile 2, each charged with obstructing governmental administration. Juvenile 2 also was charged with one count of resisting arrest. Both cases remain pending in Dutchess County Family Court.

A 17-second video clip was posted to social media showing City of Poughkeepsie Police Officer John Williams using force to restrain Juvenile 2, taking her to the ground.

After a review of the video, Mayor Rob Rolison requested the police department conduct an investigation into the facts and circumstances preceding and following that arrest.

Through statements Juvenile 2 and her family gave to the media, the City of Poughkeepsie Police Department became aware of several complaints regarding its personnel during the incident.

These allegations include:
* That there was an excessive use of force by Officer Williams.
* That Juvenile 2 had lost consciousness during the arrest and was not offered medical assistance.
* That Juvenile 2 had feminine hygiene products withheld from her.
* That city police officers used foul and derogatory language while at the juvenile aid bureau.
* That a female was not present at the juvenile aid bureau.

The Investigation
The department began reviewing this incident immediately and devoted over 200 hours to the investigation. In total nine (9) individuals provided sworn statements to the police department. Witnesses said they observed a large group of juveniles fighting in and out of the roadway and on the sidewalk in the area along Church Street and South Cherry Street and Hammersley Avenue. They said they observed police officers trying to break up the fighting without further incident and have the crowd disperse. Witness statements also included descriptions of a female “flipping off” the police, of a can being thrown at a police officer, of a female swinging at a police officer “like she was swimming,” and of a female running up behind an officer and punching him on his back.

As for the specific allegations raised regarding the actions of police personnel:
* Based on the video evidence and witness statements, the physical act Officer Williams used to affect the arrest of Juvenile 2 was in accordance with the training outlined by the Municipal Police Training Council. It did not deviate from accepted practices and was reasonable in light of the facts and circumstances surrounding the incident. Police say as Officer Kevin VanWagner attempted to place Juvenile 1 in custody, he was shoved from behind by Juvenile 2. At one point, Officer VanWagner ended up being forced to the ground.

A video clip shows Officer Williams using an “arm bar” on Juvenile 2 after she physically attempts to engage Officer Kevin VanWagner. That tactic is consistent with both the Federal Bureau of Investigation Defensive Tactics and the New York State Division of Criminal Justice Services Municipal Police Training Council defensive tactics training. Williams successfully completed both of these trainings and is a certified trainer in defensive tactics.
* The department does have female hygiene products. Police say Juvenile 2 never requested any such products.
* The available audio and video footage does not depict officers using foul or derogatory language with either of the girls.
* The investigation found that a female officer/employee was not present during the processing of Juvenile 1 and Juvenile 2.
* The investigation did not show that Juvenile 2 ever lost consciousness while in his custody or request medical treatment. Juvenile 2 was able to access her cell phone, while handcuffed, and make a phone call.

The Determination
Officer Williams was placed on modified desk duty pending the outcome of this investigation. He has been returned to regular duty.

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