Officials are implementing a series of changes to the GW Police Department in the wake of an incident in which an officer allegedly pushed a student down some steps.
Associate Vice President of Safety and Security Scott Burnotes said in an email Tuesday that officials intend to introduce body-worn cameras for all officers by the start of the fall semester, create a unit to train officers on best practices and create a community board to advise on GWPD hires that would include a current student to better meet the community’s needs. The suggestions emerged from an internal investigation into the conduct of two officers involved in an altercation with a student last month, he said.
“Expanding the student role in division processes is crucial to making sure we are meeting the needs of our community members,” he said in the email. “The Division of Safety and Security already has a student advisory board, but I do not want to limit student involvement to just that group.”
He added that one officer received a suspension for five days without pay for failing to use “appropriate deescalation techniques prior to physically engaging a student” and “failing to immediately render aid once the student fell down the stairs.” The other officer received a “warning letter” from GWPD Chief James Tate for failure to immediately render aid to the student as well, the email states.
Burnotes said Tate, the newly appointed chief of police, appointed a lieutenant who was not present during the incident, to lead the investigation.
“The investigator interviewed witnesses, students and staff, and obtained statements from anyone willing to speak with us,” Burnotes said. “All the officers at the scene were also interviewed. Internal and external video of the protest was also viewed.”
He said that after the investigation, Tate formed a corrective action review board composed of senior personnel who were not involved in the incident to review the investigation’s findings and determine appropriate corrective action for the officers.
“The review board studied the results of the investigation and made a recommendation about corrective action,” Burnotes said. “Chief Tate then took that recommendation and conferred with colleagues in Human Resources before making his final decision.”
Burnotes said officials will implement more intensive trainings for officers, including an unconscious bias workshop, and develop a “training unit” headed by a police lieutenant so officers receive “effective” lessons on “best practices of law enforcement agencies in our region and nationally” throughout the year.
“Our goal moving forward is to exceed any minimal standards to better serve the GW community,” the email states.
This article appeared in the March 12, 2020 issue of the Hatchet.