Barmore shooting: Independent review finds deadly force justified; officers ‘violated RPD policy and training and used poor tactics’; ‘concerns regarding the supervision of the officers’
From City of Rockford press release
The City of Rockford Police Department released today (June 15) the independent assessment report of the officer-involved shooting of Mark Barmore that occurred Aug. 24, 2009. The report was prepared by Attorneys Kelli M. Evans and Christy E. Lopez, principals of Independent Assessment and Monitoring, LLP, of Oakland, Calif.
The independent assessment consisted of a comprehensive evaluation of the investigative materials from the incident and related policies, procedures and training materials from the Rockford Police Department.
The report recognizes and affirms the State’s Attorney’s criminal investigation and Grand Jury’s determination that officers Stanton North and Oda Poole were justified in the use of deadly force in the Aug. 24, 2009, shooting death of Mark Anthony Barmore. The report details, however, certain tactical, supervisory and procedural practices that were deficient.
The city retained Evans and Lopez to perform the independent assessment in response to litigation and as part of the Administrative Review process that began after the Grand Jury completed its proceedings in December 2009. The report contains 27 specific recommendations and analysis to guide the department’s formal Administrative Review process.
The report also recommends system improvements and will be used to support the resolution of legal matters related to the incident.
Rockford Police Chief Chet Epperson said: “The Rockford Police Department has demonstrated its commitment to continuous improvement through our successful attainment of national accreditation and instituting enhancements, such as our Early Warning System. I am proud of the work our officers perform day in and day out, putting themselves at risk, to continue to reduce crime in our community. The consultant’s report will further assist us as we improve our department.”
The extensive report covers details of the shooting; policy, training and tactical concerns; and an assessment of RPD systems designed to minimize and guide the use of force. The department continues to review and discuss the report, and is already implementing some of the recommendations.
The recent creation of the Office of Professional Standards (OPS) will enable the department to execute the balance of the recommendations through the development of work groups and a detailed work plan. The Office of Professional Standards, which is headed by Deputy Chief David Hopkins, will also oversee training, internal investigations, ethical practices and community engagement. The integration of these vital components will allow for ongoing analysis and implementation of recommendations contained in the report.
The Evans and Lopez Report provides a strong foundation for the administrative review process; however, there is still much work to be completed. As the report identifies, “Our independent assessment is not the administrative investigation of this incident; it is meant to assist the Rockford Police Department in conducting its own formal administrative investigation and resolution of this incident.”
Remaining administrative work includes completion of the formal internal investigation into the actions of Rockford Police officers. Once final discipline decisions related to those officers are reached, the city will release those outcomes to the community as provided for under Illinois law.
The administrative process will also likely include a Use of Force Review Board after decisions on any disciplinary action are reached.
Rockford Mayor Larry Morrissey (I) said: “I appreciate the work of the consultants and the full cooperation of our officers, staff and City Council. I am proud of our department. This report further demonstrates our commitment to improve our community by being accountable, open and transparent.”
Since shortly after the Barmore shooting, the City of Rockford has also been working with the Department of Justice and a range of stakeholders in ongoing community mediation sessions. The sessions, which began in October 2009, have brought together members of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP), clergy from the Rockford community, League of United Latin American Citizens (LULAC), members of the city administration and the Police Benevolent and Protective Association (PB&PA) to address community concerns following the Barmore incident. These voluntary meetings have been a cooperative effort to improve race relations and communications between members of city government, law enforcement and various communities in the City of Rockford. The mediation process has led to numerous working proposals for creating ongoing and systemic connections between the police department and the community. The mediation is expected to conclude within the next few months with an agreement finalizing those proposals.
“The Rockford Police Department has been committed to ongoing improvement for the past several years,” Epperson said. “The positive effect of this tragic and unfortunate incident is that it has compelled us to move even more quickly down our improvement path. We are publishing this report to demonstrate our commitment to openness, transparency and accountability. The community can see directly where we are as we progress and can help guide our work as we implement recommendations contained in the report.”
The report, in its entirety, is also posted on the RPD Web site at www.rockfordil.gov/government/police.
Attorneys Evans and Lopez
Kelli M. Evans is a civil rights attorney and principal of Independent Monitoring & Assessment, LLP. Evans has spent her career working to promote civil rights, most recently as a federal court-appointed Monitor of the Oakland Police Department, where she oversees the department’s implementation of a court order requiring a host of reforms. The reforms include significant changes to the manner in which the department responds to and investigates use of force incidents, including officer-involved shootings.
As a civil rights attorney in private practice, Evans has litigated a variety of civil rights issues, including employment discrimination, fair housing and public accommodations. She has testified before both the U.S. Congress and the U.S. Commission on Civil Rights regarding civil rights and civil liberties.
Evans formerly served as a senior trial attorney in the Civil Rights Division of the U.S. Department of Justice, where she specialized in prison and jail conditions cases and in police misconduct cases involving racial profiling and excessive force, including use of deadly force.
Evans was one of the attorneys who brought DOJ’s first racial profiling case, United States v. State of New Jersey. This case resulted in a landmark consent decree that has served as a model for civil rights advocates, community groups and law enforcement agencies across the nation working to end racial profiling. While at the Department of Justice, Evans also served as lead attorney in several cases involving unconstitutional conditions in state and local correctional agencies, resulting in significant reforms in both adult and juvenile correctional facilities.
Before joining the Civil Rights Division, Evans worked as an attorney for the ACLU, where she specialized in criminal justice issues and race discrimination. Prior to joining the ACLU, Evans served as a Ruth Chance Law Fellow at Equal Rights Advocates.
Evans received her undergraduate degree from Stanford University and her law degree from the University of California at Davis, where she was the recipient of the Martin Luther King Jr. Award for Public Service. Evans is a Harvard Law School Wasserstein Fellow and has served as a vice chairman of the American Bar Association Section on Individual Rights and Responsibilities and on the board of directors of the ACLU.
Christy E. Lopez is a principal of Independent Monitoring & Assessment (IAM), LLP, and a federal court monitor, appointed by Judge Thelton Henderson to assess and report on the Oakland (California) Police Department’s compliance with a federal consent decree. Lopez was a senior trial attorney in the Special Litigation Section of the Civil Rights Division of the United States Department of Justice, where she worked on cases involving patterns or practices of police and prison misconduct. Lopez litigated with the Washington, D.C., civil rights law firm, Relman & Associates, and has been an adjunct professor at American University School of Law, teaching courses on alternative dispute resolution and ethnic profiling. As a partner with IAM, LLP, Lopez consults with organizations regarding civil and constitutional rights in the law enforcement and corrections context. She is a trained mediator. Lopez has made numerous media appearances to discuss civil rights/law enforcement issues and has testified before United States Senate and House committees about ethnic profiling. Lopez received her Juris Doctor from Yale Law School in 1994 and is licensed to practice law in Washington, D.C., and California.
In 1994-1995, she clerked for Justice Robert L. Eastaugh of the Supreme Court of Alaska. She is past vice president of CASA of Maryland, a community-based nonprofit organization whose mission is to improve the quality of life and social and economic well-being of the Latino community in Washington, D.C., and Maryland.
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