An internal investigation conducted by Captain Chad Pride of the East Lansing Police Department found that Officers Jeff Horn and Brittany Monroe violated two ELPD policies by wrongfully searching and detaining a 20-year-old Black man in May of this year, and that their actions were not racially motivated.
According to ELPD records, the man was having a seizure at a bus stop on E. Grand River Avenue when Horn, Monroe and East Lansing Fire Department paramedics were dispatched to the location.
Pride’s 67-page summary of the matter, discussed during the Oct. 5 meeting of the Independent Police Oversight Committee, describes the events that followed and includes his account of the body-worn camera footage that documented the two policy violations.
One of the policies violated was ELPD Policy #300-16 C., which states, “If a person who is not in custody refuses EMS care or refuses to be transported to a medical facility, a police officer shall not force that person to receive medical care or be transported.”
Pride’s summary includes his observations that “Officer Monroe tells [name redacted] that he can’t leave until the paramedics check him out. Officer Monroe states you’re not going anywhere, holding the subject’s arm standing in front of him, not allowing [name redacted] to leave.”
Pride’s summary also details the wrongful search violation: “Officer Horn does grab a hold of the small brown bag. [name redacted] also holds onto the bag pulling back from Officer Horn keeping control of it. Officer Horn states we have to look in the bag before you go in the ambulance.”
Both Horn and Monroe indicated they were searching the man and his possessions to determine if he had a weapon.
But Pride’s investigation, based on ELPD Policy #300-1: B “Exception to the Search Warrant Rule,” found that, because the man was no longer experiencing a medical emergency, was not in police custody, was not “aggressive” and officers had no “reasonable suspicion of a weapon involved,” the search violated ELPD policy.
Pride’s report also states that, after Jessica Shaw of the Ingham County Prosecutor’s Office reviewed the case, she agreed the search did not meet the exceptions indicated in ELPD policy.
According to the report, when interviewed by Pride about the search, “Officer Horn indicated he thought the search was lawful, however, Officer Monroe stated, ‘I don’t know, yes.’”
A complaint filed by the man’s uncle claims tactics used by ELPD are due to racial discrimination.
The morning after the incident, the man’s uncle, Sean Flanagan, filed a complaint with ELPD, claiming his nephew, who has a history of seizures, had experienced unlawful search and detainment due to racial discrimination.
Flanagan, who was in contact with his nephew after he was transported by ELFD paramedics to Sparrow Hospital, also spoke to Officers Horn and Monroe by phone while they were with his nephew.
Flanagan’s written statement claims Horn and Monroe “performed an illegal search of my nephew and his belongings” when he was in a “disoriented” state. Flanagan also details his own interactions with Horn and Monroe when he spoke to them for details about why his nephew was being “[held] against his will until he consented to a search and a tox screen.”
Flanagan claims Monroe “snickered and said your alleged nephew was combative” and it was policy to search all people before ambulance rides. Flanagan also claimed Horn “clearly had a chip on his shoulder” when he spoke to him.
“The only reason you did that [searched the man] was because he is a young black male that looks a certain kind of way,” Flanagan wrote in his recollection of his conversation with Monroe.
Flanagan’s official complaint cites “discrimination” and “searched illegally due to race” and “false imprisonment.”
As part of his internal investigation, Pride interviewed Flanagan, Flanagan’s nephew, and Officers Monroe and Horn about the incident.
The man who had the seizure claimed he could not remember any events before he was loaded into the ambulance, calling his memory of the incident “foggy.” He recalled being searched by the officers, and recounted his time with them in the hospital, stating they wouldn’t let him use the bathroom.
After speaking to his uncle, the man claimed he was then allowed by officers to use the bathroom and leave Sparrow Hospital of his own accord.
Pride’s investigation found Horn and Monroe’s actions were not racially motivated.
Though Pride determined Monroe and Horn had violated two ELPD policies, he found Flanagan’s other complaints unsubstantiated, including his claims about racial discrimination.
In his investigatory documents, Pride wrote, “After observing the video of the officer’s BWC [body-worn camera] and interviewing the officers involved in this complaint, the investigator finds the employees unfounded about their actions in searching the individual due to his race and race [sic] the way he looks.”
The commissioners questioned this rationale. Jamie White, a Lansing-area civil rights attorney who was named to the commission last week, said if it had been a young white woman having a medical emergency, she wouldn’t have been searched.
“We all know that,” White said.
Commissioner Kath Edsall referenced ELPD data on the overrepresentation of Black people as both complainants to ELPD and as those more likely to be stopped and arrested by officers.
“That’s a problem,” Edsall told Pride. “To then wipe it clean and say there’s no racism here is a problem.”
She said she did not agree with Pride’s assessment that the violations were not racially motivated.
Commissioner Noel Garcia said he thought the commission should ask ELPD for more information about the incident, including the body-worn camera footage Pride had reviewed.
In a unanimous vote, the commission passed a motion that requested the body-worm camera footage from ELPD, information on whether Officers Monroe and Horn opted out of the city’s anti-racist training, and information on how ELPD has worked to re-educate officers on proper policy and procedure.
According to Pride, ELPD is already working to rectify officers’ understanding of search policy.
Chair Erick Williams called it “ironic” that both Officers Horn and Monroe are Field Training Officers who are responsible for training other officers on policy and procedure when they themselves seem unclear on proper search policy.
Pride told the commission that sometimes, through the complaint-filing process, ELPD learns certain policies are misunderstood by officers. He explained how ELPD has been working to educate officers on what constitutes appropriate searches.
Pride said that following his findings in the investigation, ELPD and ELFD have already undergone training on proper search policy.
Vice Chair Chris Root called this “progress” despite her worries about the long-term ramifications of potential similar ELPD policy violations.