In response to a Colorado police officer fracturing the arm of an elderly woman with dementia on video, an independent review of the Loveland Police Department was recently released and presented to the Loveland City Council.
On June 26, 2020, police body cam footage recorded Loveland Police Officer Austin Hopp as he confronted Karen Garner, a 73-year-old woman who suffers from dementia and sensory aphasia, which impairs her ability to verbally communicate and understand others’ communications. Walmart employees called the police after Garner attempted to leave the store with $13.88 worth of food and cleaning products.
In the video, Officer Hopp cuffed Garner’s hands behind her back before shoving her against the hood of a patrol car. Despite the fact that Garner is only five feet tall and weighs 80lbs., Hopp abruptly dislocated her shoulder, fractured her humerus, and sprained her wrist.
The charges against Garner were later dropped, and she filed a federal lawsuit accusing the city and police officers of violating her constitutional protections against excessive force, to have due process, and also violating the Americans with Disabilities Act. Last year, the City of Loveland agreed to a $3 million settlement.
On Tuesday, an independent review of the Loveland Police Department was presented to the Loveland City Council. According to the assessment, staffing shortages at the police department are leading to fatigue and frustration, while the quality of law enforcement has declined due to policies pushing officers to increase the number of arrests and citations.
The review stated, “In 2021, national attention focused on the City of Loveland and the Loveland Police Department (LPD or Department) as news outlets and social media shared video footage of an officer-involved use of force during the arrest of Karen Garner, who has dementia. Another video showed officers laughing while watching the original video. Although most anger focused on the LPD, the Garner case impacted the entire city government. City employees were inundated with emails and phone calls—some of which were rude, violent and profane. The calls and other negative attention exhausted city employees, and some employees expressed frustration at the LPD for not recognizing that this attention impacted other city employees as well.”
“It makes great sense that you would analyze the crime areas of Loveland, and you would focus your resources. It’s a system that takes your vehicle crashes, and your crime, and kind of overlaps them and says, we’re going to send more police to that area of town. Makes perfect sense, except perhaps our implementation got skewed,” said Mayor Jacki Marsh. “There’s clearly an expectation that patrol officers will have 10 engagements a day that result in arrest or citations. So, that is putting pressure on our officers to respond to calls that are likely going to lead to an arrest or citation. And it is the opposite of wanting to de-escalate.”
Mayor Marsh added, “Take the Karen Garner case. An officer is called out for shoplifting, and it would be hard not to think that, in their mind, that’s going to be one of my 10. That’s an arrest or a citation. So, that is your mentality going out, and the inability to switch and to see a human being that clearly has some dementia or mental health issues, and shift gears.”
“The Loveland Police Department — these are people that the community is trusted to walk around with guns, and we’ve given them authorization to basically kill at their own discretion. And here’s a report, an in-depth report, offering a finding saying that they need more training on valuing the sanctity of human life,” Garner’s attorney, Sarah Schielke told Denver7. “That, to me, is just such a catastrophic cultural problem within a police department and something that I don’t think that any leadership, their existing leadership, should be able to avoid.”
At least four officers involved in Garner’s arrest were placed on administrative leave, including Sgt. Phil Metzler, Officer Austin Hopp, Officer Daria Jalali, and community service officer Tyler Blackett, who assisted in booking Garner. Last year, Loveland Police Chief Robert Ticer announced that officers Hopp, Jalali, and Blackett resigned from the department.
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