[WATCH] Police Department Under Fire for Shredding Document in Viral Video Case

The Arlington Police Department has come under fire from one of its police associations and a lawyer after it destroyed a document related to a viral video incident where police brutality was alleged.

In July, a mother filmed her 16-year-old son being taken to the ground after he reportedly made physical contact with Officer Chad Haning during an altercation. That video subsequently went viral, with the mother alleging police brutality.

A lawyer representing Haning in the resulting Internal Affairs investigation has come forward with details that suggest senior officers intentionally destroyed a related Use of Force report, which would violate State law and Department policy regarding document retention.

When force is applied, an officer is required to complete a Use of Force report. In this incident, Haning completed a report and turned it over to his chain of command.

As that document moved up the chain of command, Deputy Chief James Lowery allegedly ordered Lieutenant Michael Moses – Haning’s superior commander — to “get rid of it.” Moses complied by shredding the document.

According to Haning’s lawyer, Randall Moore, the destruction of that document amounts to a felony offense under Texas Penal Code section 37.10, which states a person commits an offense if he or she “intentionally destroys, conceals, removes, or otherwise impairs the verity, legibility, or availability of a governmental record.”

To purge a record, the Department’s retention policy requires either a court order or authorization from the city manager or police chief, followed by a review from the Department’s legal advisor.

“Not only is this a felony, but it violates the City’s record retention policy,” Moore said. “The shredding of a police document and the subsequent actions to mitigate the offense brings disrepute upon the Department and lessens the confidence we as the public should have in the agency designated to uphold the laws of the State of Texas.”

A police spokesperson confirmed the document was destroyed, but said it was because the document contained an error and “scratch outs.”

“The excuse that it had scratch outs seems weak considering most hand-written documents have some scratch outs,” Moore said. “It seems far more risky to destroy a government record than to turn over the original with typical handwritten corrections.”

The Department spokesperson defended the disposal of the document by pointing out that Haning was instructed to complete an electronic version. But Moore said his client became suspicious at this request and captured a photo of the original document while it was still intact.

Once the Department learned a photo existed, and that the document’s destruction might be made public, they attempted to mitigate the damages by recreating the document, according to Moore. When asked if his client was ordered by Internal Affairs to turn over the photos he had taken, Moore said he couldn’t comment based on attorney-client privilege.

“I’m glad my client took a picture of that original report, because it preserved the comments of the supervisors,” Moore said. “I believe the Department wanted a form without supervisor comments on it so they could have the flexibility to punish my client. With the supervisors’ comments already on there, it would have been hard for them to do that.”

He reported the document’s destruction and subsequent attempt to recreate it to the District Attorney’s office. An employee with the DA’s economic crimes office, Nathan Barton, responded to Moore asking for more details. A DA spokesperson would not acknowledge if there is an active investigation, however.

Moore assisted 16 patrol officers last year after they were placed on administrative leave, and later terminated, for falsifying traffic stops. He said the destruction of the report should be treated the same since it violates the same State law.

“The Department does not seem to be acting consistently in handling this probable felony compared to how it treated its patrol officers,” Moore said. “To be consistent, Arlington would need to put the officers involved in the shredding on administrative leave, take their badges and guns, and then refer this case to the Criminal Investigations Department and Tarrant County District Attorney’s office for prosecution.”

The president of the Arlington Municipal Patrolman’s Association, Chris CeBallos, wants discipline to be applied equally to senior officers as it is applied to patrol officers.

“If evidence shows that the document was shredded, then the appropriate action should be taken against those individuals involved, regardless of rank,” CeBallos said. “The possibility that a document of this nature, in a high-profile case, was potentially shredded is a huge Integrity issue not only for the investigation but also for the Department.”

Questions regarding discipline of the officers involved in the destruction of the document were not directly answered by the Department.

The Department spokesperson said there is a “complete review” of all aspects of the case when Internal Affairs becomes involved, and that the facts will come out and there will be an eventual outcome shared publicly.

Source: https://arlingtonvoice.com