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Vermont Attorney General’s Office Completes Hartford Police Department Excessive Force Reviews

CONTACT: Cindy Maguire, Assistant Attorney General, (802) 828-5512

January 13, 2012

The Attorney General’s Office has concluded there is no basis for criminal charges against Officer Jonathan Adams related to the September 10, 2010 incident. The Attorney General’s Office also concluded that, even though there is a question about the legality of an arrest in the June 5, 2011 incident, there is no evidence that Officers Eric Clifford and Eric Jollymore engaged in criminal assaultive behavior.

With respect to the first incident, on September 10, 2010, the investigation revealed that Monica Therrien called 911 from a room at the Shady Lawn Motel and alleged that her roommate was trying to beat her up. Officer Adams, together with Officers Christopher O’Keefe and Stuart Rogers, responded. When they arrived, Officer O’Keefe escorted Ms. Therrien from the room, while Officers Adams and Rogers interviewed her roommate. After speaking with Ms. Therrien’s roommate, Officer Adams joined Officer O’Keefe and attempted to interview Ms. Therrien. Both Officers Adams and O’Keefe detected multiple signs that Ms. Therrien was highly intoxicated, including slurred speech and difficulty standing and walking. Ms. Therrien attempted to show Officers Adams and O’Keefe her alleged injuries. When they informed her that they could not see any injuries, she became agitated and verbally confrontational. Officer Adams instructed Ms. Therrien he would arrest her if she did not calm down, but she failed to follow this instruction. Consequently, Officer Adams instructed Ms. Therrien to place her hands behind her back. In response, Ms. Therrien walked away from Officer Adams and towards the parking lot. Officer Adams concluded that Ms. Therrien’s degree of intoxication rendered her incapable of caring for herself and he attempted, by grabbing her shoulder, to place her into protective custody. During this process Ms. Therrien and Officer Adams fell to the ground. Ms. Therrien sustained a head injury from hitting the ground and she was taken to the hospital. The results from two blood alcohol tests taken at the hospital confirmed that she was highly intoxicated.

Under these facts, the Attorney General’s Office concluded that there was insufficient evidence to prove beyond a reasonable doubt that Officer Adams used an unreasonable level of force when attempting to place Ms. Therrien into protective custody.

The second incident occurred on June 5, 2011, when the Hartford Police Department received a report of a car in an embankment off Marsh Family Road. Officers Eric Clifford and Eric Jollymore responded to investigate. When they arrived, they observed a van overturned onto its passenger side lying in an embankment with the moon roof kicked out. They also observed some empty champagne bottles inside the van and some empty beer bottles in the nearby area. Using DMV records, they discovered Darrek and Lisa Daoust owned the van.

Officers Clifford and Jollymore then responded to the Daousts’ home in Quechee to further investigate. Upon questioning, Mr. Daoust told them that he fell asleep and rolled the van. On several occasions, the officers asked whether Mr. Daoust had been drinking and requested him to step outside. On each occasion, Mr. Daoust informed them he only started drinking after he got to his house, that he did not drink and drive, and he refused to exit his house. On the last occasion, Mr. Daoust attempted to close his front door. In response, Officers Clifford and Jollymore held the door open, entered the Daousts’ home, physically removed Mr. Daoust, and brought him to the ground on the driveway in order to place him in custody. Neither officer had a warrant authorizing them to enter the Daousts’ home, nor did Daoust consent to their entrance. In addition, when they entered the house, Mr. Daoust told them they were not allowed inside. He also physically resisted their attempts to remove him from the home, place him on the ground, and handcuff him, and did not comply with their instructions to place his hands behind his back. To gain compliance, Officer Clifford delivered one knee strike to Mr. Daoust’s left side and four flashlight strikes to Mr. Daoust’s left arm. After the fourth flashlight strike, Officer Jollymore successfully handcuffed Daoust. Mr. Daoust suffered a cut on his forehead, but refused treatment from emergency medical services.

Although the officers did not obtain a warrant or consent to enter the Daousts’ home, the question of the legality of the arrest does not determine the outcome of the review of the officers’ use of force to the resistance. Under Vermont law, there is no right to resist an arrest, even an illegal arrest. The remedy for an alleged illegal arrest is suppression of any evidence wrongfully obtained, or the filing of a lawsuit for civil damages. These legal principles support an underlying public policy of discouraging citizens from fighting with police any time they think the police may be acting in error.

In this case, even assuming the arrest was illegal; Mr. Daoust was intoxicated, resisted the officers’ efforts to place him in custody, and did not comply with instructions to place his hands behind his back. Officer Jollymore’s efforts to pull Mr. Daoust’s hands behind his back were a reasonable way to gain compliance. Officer Clifford’s use of an impact tool to deliver controlled strikes to the side and arm were not unreasonable under the circumstances and were consistent with the Town of Hartford’s Use of Force Manual. Therefore, under the facts as determined by the investigation, the Attorney General’s Office concluded that neither Officers Clifford nor Jollymore engaged in criminal assaultive behavior in their application of force as they placed Mr. Daoust into custody.

The Attorney General’s Office’s reviews of the September 10, 2010 and June 5, 2011 incidents mark the second and third reviews of Hartford Police Department Officers it has conducted since May 29, 2010. On November 23, 2010, the Attorney General’s Office completed its review of Officers Frederick Peyton’s and Kristinnah Adams’s response to a 911 call of a possible burglary in progress at the home of Mr. Wayne Burwell. The Attorney General’s Office concluded there was no basis for criminal charges against Officers Peyton and Adams. However, given the number of use of force complaints in approximately a year's time, the Attorney General has met with the Town of Hartford’s Chief of Police, Town Manager, and Town Attorney. At this meeting these Hartford Officials represented that the Town has already taken measures to ensure its police officers use an appropriate amount of force in the line of duty, and attempt to de-escalate potential violent encounters whenever possible. Specifically, it has made some personnel changes, provided supervisory level leadership training to four police department supervisors, confirmed that the entire police department has participated in a domestic violence training program, and plans to conduct a training on the need, absent exigent circumstances, to obtain either a consent or a search warrant in order to enter a residence.

Attorney General Sorrell commented: “It is regrettable that Ms. Therrien and Mr. Daoust suffered injuries. However, neither incident involved criminal assaultive behavior by the Hartford Police officers involved. The State’s law enforcement officers must have adequate training to de-escalate situations and to recognize when the law requires a search warrant. This type of training is crucial in enabling officers to exercise good judgment when responding both to emergencies and potential threats. It is important for the Town of Hartford to provide continuing training for its officers so they can properly serve their community. The measures that the Town of Hartford has taken since the Attorney General’s Office has conducted these three use-of-force reviews are steps in the right direction.”

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