Settlement Approved for Christina West Case

Christina West
Christina West
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September 15, 2014

The Tallahassee City Commission today approved a proposed settlement agreement with Christina and David West for $475,000, as the result of a lawsuit against the City and the Police Department over injuries Ms. West sustained when being arrested on August 10, 2013.

"The reality is that this has been an emotional and stressful case for everyone involved including the West family and specifically Ms. West, who was injured during this incident. The dash cam video of her arrest was difficult for all of us to see," City Attorney Lewis Shelley said. "The West case prompted changes in the Police Department, including new policies and procedures and more stringent reviews. We have a new Police Chief, and there is a strong commitment to rebuilding citizen trust."

The City Commission today held an executive session with the City Attorney, followed by a public meeting where citizens were given an opportunity to speak. The settlement agreement was unanimously approved by the commission.

By Julie Montanaro
September 12, 2014

The City of Tallahassee could vote on a settlement in the Christina West case as early as Monday.

A special closed door meeting has been called for commissioners to discuss a proposed settlement in the excessive force suit.

Dashcam video shows officers trying to handcuff Christina West during a drunk driving stop in August 2013 after her SUV plowed through the wall of a house in Killearn.

West says the officers officers broke her cheekbone, bloodied her nose, gave her a black eye and more when they slammed her into the patrol car and threw her to the ground.

This is what West's attorney said in September 2013 the day the tape was released to the media.

"I don't care if she was drunker than Cooter Brown and took a breath test and blew through the moon," Fred Conrad said, "that's not warranted. That's not okay."

The officers claimed West started thrashing and kicked one of them in the leg, the other in the groin.

TPD said the use of force was justified, but a total of four officers were suspended and a grand jury said they escalated the situation instead of deescalating it. The

In March - West filed a federal lawsuit against the officers and the city claiming excessive force.

It is set for trial in May 2015, but a federal judge ordered both sides to the table for mediation first.

Assistant City Attorney Cassandra Jackson says that mediation hearing took place on Tuesday.

A special meeting of the city commission is now set for Monday to discuss a proposed settlement.

"Ultimately, if there was any settlement it would have to be approved by the city commission," Jackson said.

No one is disclosing any details or dollar amounts. None of the commissioners we contacted has commented on the prospect of a settlement and Christina West's attorney had no comment either.

After Monday's executive session, the meeting will be opened to the public. If the commission decides to take any action, the public will have a chance to comment.

Update: City of Tallahassee
September 12, 2014

A special meeting of the Tallahassee City Commission will take place on Monday, September 15, at 4:30 p.m. The meeting will be held in the Tallahassee Room on the second floor of City Hall, 300 South Adams Street.

The meeting will begin as a public meeting, to be followed by an attorney-client executive session, which is closed to the public and the media pursuant to Section 286.011(8), Florida Statutes. The purpose of the attorney-client executive session and the only agenda matter is to discuss settlement negotiations in Christina and David West vs. City of Tallahassee, et al., which is pending in the United States District Court for the Northern District of Florida as case number 4:14-CV-00153.

The entire attorney-client executive session will be recorded by a certified court reporter. The transcript will be made part of the public record upon conclusion of the litigation.

The individuals scheduled to attend the attorney-client executive session are Mayor John Marks; Commissioner Andrew Gillum; Commissioner Scott Maddox; Commissioner Nancy Miller; Commissioner Gil Ziffer; City Manager Anita Favors Thompson; City Attorney Lewis Shelley; Steve Carter, Special Litigation Counsel to the City of Tallahassee; and a court reporter. The attorney-client executive session will last approximately 30 minutes.

At the conclusion of the attorney-client executive session, the meeting will be re-opened to the public, and the City Commission may at that time act on the proposed settlement. If the City Commission determines to take action on the proposed settlement at that time, the public will be provided an opportunity to speak, pursuant to Section 286.0114, Florida Statutes.

Any person who wishes to attend the public portion of the meeting and who requires special accommodation due to disability or physical impairment should contact (850) 891-8130 or FRS TDD at 711 at least 48 hours prior to the meeting.

Tallahassee Police Department Release
December 16, 2013, 11am

The City of Tallahassee today released the Tallahassee Police Department’s 420 page internal affairs investigation report involving the arrest of Ms. Christina West on August 10, 2013. The report found that officers complied with policies and training as they relate to the appropriate use of force while it also mirrors many of the recommendations of the Leon County Grand Jury Presentment. Recommendations related to officer conduct, the need to seek medical attention prior to transporting Ms. West to the Leon County Jail, and the need for more detailed writing in the police report. As a result of the investigation, the officers and supervisors involved were suspended without pay from two days to two weeks.

The report concluded the following:

Officer Chris Ormerod was found to be in violation of rules of conduct during the arrest of Ms. West, failing to provide appropriate medical aid to Ms. West and improper documentation in his original report. He received a suspension without pay for 80 hours.

Officer Matthew Smidt was found to be in violation of rules of conduct during the arrest of Ms. West and for failing to provide appropriate medical aid to Ms. West. He received a suspension without pay for 40 hours.

Sergeant George Creamer was found to be in violation of standard operating procedure in this case, as he did not question the officers in his charge about Ms. West’s injuries. He was also reprimanded for not providing medical treatment to Ms. West. He received a suspension without pay for 20 hours.

Sergeant William Faust was found to be in violation of standard operating procedure in this case, as he did not question officers who were on scene about Ms. West’s injuries. He was also reprimanded for not providing medical treatment to Ms. West and for failing to correct missing information in Officer Ormerod’s original report. He received a suspension without pay for 20 hours.

“This report provides a very thorough and detailed accounting of what took place during the arrest of Ms. West, with almost 30 individuals interviewed and all of the facts provided," said Interim Police Chief Tom Coe. "Based on initial findings and this report, we have already made and will continue to make changes in our training, as well as ensuring our officers understand that their words and actions represent our entire department. Even in stressful situations, we must demonstrate quality and professionalism in every action. The suspensions I have implemented address that issue as well as several policy revisions related to prompt medical assistance and report writing.”

“We will use the findings of this report, as well as the grand jury's report, to continue to improve this department as we work to ensure citizen trust and confidence," Coe added.

The complete internal affairs report is available HERE.

By: Matt Galka
November 12, 2013

Tallahassee, FL - City Commissioner Scott Maddox was happy that something came out of the Grand Jury decision regarding Christina West.

Maddox was outspoken about the incident when video of West being forced into the ground by two officers began to make its way around town, and eventually the country.

"It's obvious over this incident and the Rachel Hoffman incident that changes had to come to that department. But we've got a lot of outstanding good men and women that work in that department and put their lives on the line on a daily basis for us and I'm confident that they'll make the changes that are necessary," said Maddox via phone from Seattle, WA.

The Grand Jury made recommendations to the Tallahassee Police Department including one that states they should follow their own policies more closely.

By: Matt Galka
November 12, 2013

Tallahassee, FL - State attorney Willie Meggs handed Judge Jackie Fulford a presentment decided by 17 jurors regarding the D.U.I. arrest of Christina West. Dashcam video from this past summer showed West being forced to the ground by Tallahassee Police Department officers. She wound up with multiple injuries.

The eight page document read "Your Grand Jurors conclude that the Officers escalated this encounter when they had the opportunity to deescalate as required." It went on to say that "procedures and policies should be more than words on a paper."

"if you're gonna have them, you should follow them, or just don't have them," said Meggs when asked about whether or not he agreed with the Grand Jury's policy recommendations.

"Obviously, if you've seen the policies, there are policies in there about rendering aid to a person who's injured, that didn't happen. That policy needs to be adhered to and followed."

There were four recommendations made in all. They included T.P.D. following their own policies, retraining and contuinually educating officers, preserving original police reports, and installing a procedure with the Chief of Police that enables him to assure the public that police reports are factual and in-line with videos.

Fred Conrad, the attorney for Christina West, wasn't completely satisfied.

"What we have here is not an indictment of the officers but we have an indictment of the tallahassee police department. It's a long time coming. There's been two presenments in the last two or three years this is the third one. Hopefully it will wake them up," said Conrad.

"I have yet to see the city or the officers stand up and pay for their mistakes, when that happens, we'll be satisfied."

The Tallahassee Police Department issued a written statement which you can find below this article. The department's internal investigation is expected to be completed within the next week.

Press Release: Tallahassee Police Department

The City of Tallahassee today received the presentment from the Leon County Grand Jury regarding how Tallahassee Police Officers responded to an August 10, 2013, traffic crash and subsequent DUI arrest of Christine West. The presentment includes recommendations related to adherence to policies, training, and additional emphasis on report writing.

"We take the incident very seriously regarding the arrest and injury of Ms. West," said Acting Police Chief Tom Coe, appointed after the retirement of the former chief in September 2013. "We are changing our training to better handle situations when an individual resists arrest with greater focus on ways to deescalate the potential for conflict. We have also changed our internal reporting requirements to ensure any incident with injuries is quickly elevated to a higher level and I have personally met with nearly every officer to help reinforce our commitment to protecting and serving the citizens who live in our community.

We respect the role of the State Attorney in this process and will seriously review all the recommendations of the Grand Jury," Coe added. "We have a commitment to this community and believe that this type of review can help bring about improvements and an even higher level of service to our citizens."

The city's Internal Investigation is expected to be completed in the next week, and includes interviews with nearly 30 individuals.

By Julie Montanaro
November 12, 2013

Two Tallahassee Police officers accused of excessive force during a DUI arrest will not face any criminal charges.

A grand jury deliberated for five hours before issuing a presentment in the Christina West case.

Grand jurors concluded that the officers involved "escalated this encounter when they had the opportunity to deescalate as required" and found that the sergeants on scene "failed to intervene."

The grand jury further said, "We find the sarcastic comments and lack of professionalism by the arresting Officers, after Ms. West was injured, was disconcerting. In addition, one of the Officers led the jail staff to believe that West's injuries were caused in the car crash. We reject the proposition that all of her injuries were sustained as a result of the crash. We find that West was injured during TPD's take-down procedure while arresting her."

The presentment demands more training for officers in their use of force and encourages the chief to compare officers' written incident to video tapes when they exist.

We are talking with State Attorney Willie Meggs and are trying to reach West's attorney and interim Police Chief Tom Coe for comment.

Tallahassee, FL - Grand Jury: "We find that there is a need for more strict adherence and compliance to existing training and procedures at TPD."

Tallahassee, FL - The grand jury has returned a presentment in the Christina West case. WCTV has a reporter at the courthouse and will bring more information as it becomes available.

By: Julie Montanaro
November 12, 2013, 12pm

A Leon County grand jury is continuing its review of officers' use of force in the arrest of Christina West.

Interim Police Chief Tom Coe is now testifying behind closed doors and a bailiff standing guard outside carried in a just-delivered folder full of documents from TPD.

TPD Spokesman Dave Northway says the folder contained the personnel files of both officers involved as well as one of the sergeants on scene that night.

Tallahassee, FL - Following in his father's footsteps, his dad was there as Officer Chris Ormerod was sworn in as a Tallahassee Police Officer in 2008.

"It feels very good." Ormerod said at that time. "It's been a long six months in the academy, we worked hard to get here," he said.

Five years later, Ormerod and Officer Matt Smidt are now facing a TPD internal affairs and grand jury investigation following the August arrest of Christina West.

It left her with a broken cheek bone and a bruised and bloodied face.

The first time Ormerod was the subject of a TPD internal affairs or IA investigation was less than a year after he joined the force.

In June, 2009, Eyewitness News reported Ormerod was placed on paid leave after he used a taser on a 15 year old boy he says was jaywalking in front of his car.

According to TPD records, Ormerod was told to write a detailed report because the family was going to file a complaint.

Instead, records show Ormerod made mistakes on his report including writing the wrong date.

However, TPD's IA investigation ultimately cleared Ormerod of any wrongdoing.

"Kind of goes to show you how effective IA is or at least was," said Fred Conrad, Christina West's attorney.

TPD records also show Ormerod was involved in 5 preventable at fault crashes in four years.

The first one was after just five months on the force.

In December 2008, Ormerod turned left into oncoming traffic and was struck by a vehicle.

He received an oral reprimand.

Less than 9 months later in August, 2009, Ormerod drove his vehicle over a median.

According to TPD records, Ormerod drove the vehicle for several days with a broken hood latch and also failed to tell his sargent about the crash for several days, giving no explanation why.

Records also show just hours before the crash, Ormerod's probationary status with the department was extended for failing to meet requirements.

Ormerod received a written reprimand for the crash.

About a year and a half later in March, 2011, Ormerod was involved in two crashes on the same day.

He was suspended 20 hours and given 10 hours remedial driving training.

Then finally in August, 2012, Ormerod crashed his TPD cruiser into a railroad crossing gate, ripping it off the signal.

He was suspended 40 hours and given mandatory counseling and vision assessment.

Officer Smidt has only one oral reprimand in his file.

This past August, he neglected to put his car in park when he chased a suspect on foot and it rolled back into a shopping cart.

The officers attorneys, TPD and the Police Benevolent Association all declined comment.

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