A Dayton Daily News investigation discovered that three internal affairs investigations conducted by the Dayton police department into questionable actions by their own officers were mishandled, making it impossible for the department to discipline employees.
One investigation involved a case of two officers who responded to a dog-mauling death in 2017. A commander’s review of that case said the officers “failed to render immediate assistance and/or first aid.”
The department considered disciplining the officers – Daniel Hartings and Scott Pendley – but could not do so because the internal investigation into the incident wasn’t submitted on time by former Professional Standards Bureau Lt. Kimberly Hill, according to Dayton police records.
In a separate incident, a resident suspected a Dayton officer of stealing her dog. An internal affairs review into that allegation was conducted, but again Hill submitted the report to her supervisors too late, according to police department records.
Hill this year was transferred from her job as commander of the Professional Standards Bureau, the entity which conducts internal affairs investigations.
Policing experts say internal investigators play a key role in protecting the public from police misconduct or negligence, or in affirming that officers took correct actions. Their reviews also help departments set proper procedures on how officers are trained to respond when residents call for help.
The Daily News obtained records of the department’s investigation into Hill’s leadership of the bureau. The department, however, has yet to hand over copies of the internal affairs reports themselves and has refused to release cruiser camera video recordings of the dog-mauling incident. Those records are typically public records under Ohio law, and the Dayton Daily News is continuing to pursue them.
As the police department was investigating her performance, Hill filed a federal lawsuit against the city on Sept. 26, 2017, alleging she is the victim of gender discrimination.
In her lawsuit, Hill says she’s struggled because of anxiety, depression and post-traumatic stress disorder related to workplace harassment and bullying.
“I struggle at times with the ability to focus and concentrate due to being the target of workplace mobbing,” Hill wrote in a Nov. 10, 2017, letter to Lt. Col. Mark Ecton, the department’s deputy director and assistant chief of police.
She was reassigned last month after the department found her guilty of “incompetency, inefficiency or neglect of duty.”
Hill submitted her report on the dog-mauling incident on Aug. 28, 2017 – more than three months after the professional standards bureau was assigned the case, and after Pendley had retired. The deadline for bringing disciplinary action against Hartings was the same day Hill turned in her report, leaving no time for upper-level review.
In the other incident, the deadline for discipline had also passed before Hill turned in her report.
One expert on police operations, Cedarville University professor Patrick Oliver, was surprised by Dayton’s internal affairs efforts.
“That’s not happened under my watch, and I say that humbly,” said Oliver, who was chief of police in Fairborn, Grandview Heights, Cleveland and for Cleveland Metropolitan Parks. “I have not heard of a situation where it’s not been done timely” without an extension being requested and granted.
Neither the city nor Dayton police officials commented for this story. Hill and her attorney also did not return messages seeking comment.
Screams for help as dog attacks
Pendley and Hartings were administratively investigated by the Professional Standards Bureau after the dog-mauling death of Dayton resident Maurice Brown, internal department records show.
On April 25, Hartings and Pendley were dispatched to Middle Street in the Jane Reece neighborhood after a neighbor called 911 to report that someone was screaming for help.
The screams came from Brown, 60, who was being attacked by a pit bull that broke free of its restraints in the backyard of a nearby home.
After arriving on scene, the officers “failed to render immediate assistance and/or first aid” to Brown, according to an addendum to a letter from Ecton to Dayton Police Chief Richard Biehl. It was included in investigatory documents obtained by this newspaper through public records requests.
Hartings and Pendley were investigated internally for policy violations with the possibility that they could be punished for the incident. An internal probe was completed and submitted to Hill on June 9, 2017, according to the report.
Hill was asked about case updates July 17, Aug. 11 and Aug. 25 and responded once by saying, “I’m not finished yet, but almost,” records show.
Hill turned in the dog mauling internal investigation on Aug. 28, 2017. That was several hours after a deadline had passed that would have allowed the department to discipline officer Pendley. Officer Hartings retired earlier that summer, internal records show.
Under the Dayton police union’s contract, the department has 84 days from the time an officer is notified they are under investigation to discipline them.
Victim’s brother: ‘Completely unacceptable’
Contacted by this newspaper, Maurice Brown’s brother, David Brown, said he was not aware that the officers who responded to the scene of his brother’s attack allegedly failed to intervene immediately.
If true, the allegations are upsetting, said David Brown. He said a coroner’s report indicated his brother died of blood loss after being bitten numerous times.
David Brown, who lives in South Carolina, said it would be disturbing if police did not “do their jobs” and try to save his brother.
“That’s crazy — somebody is screaming out in agony for help, and you’d expect them to render aid,” he said. “It’s completely unacceptable.”
When they did respond, the officers shot the dog to death.
A message left with Pendley — who retired in May, 2017 — was not returned.
2 other cases finished too late
Hill also turned in investigation reports too late for discipline to be pursued against police officers in two other incidents, according to Ecton’s letter.
In September 2016, a Dayton woman’s 9-week-old pit bull puppy went missing from her backyard in the Walnut Hills neighborhood, where it had been tethered on a leash.
The criminal investigation revealed that Officer Brian Updyke was a suspect in the theft and charges were pursued, according to Ecton’s report.
Cook, the Dayton prosecutor, employed a Clark County Municipal Court special prosecutor to investigate the case. Cook declined to file charges and said she would not discuss the reasons why.
The woman said she was reunited with the dog several days after reporting it missing, after it turned up at a local adoption center.
An email sent to Updyke seeking comment was not immediately returned.
Investigator blames group bullying
Detailed information was not available for this report about the third incident in which an officer did not face potential discipline because of time constraints on the internal investigation.
In a written response to Ecton, Hill blamed her failure to submit those three reports on time to workplace bullying and “mobbing,” which she says hurt her ability to focus and concentrate at work.
Psychology Today defines mobbing as “a form of group bullying that can have even greater impacts on one’s psychological well-being and career.”
During a hearing this year, Hill claimed she suffers from depression, anxiety and post-traumatic stress disorder caused by work-related issues.
When Ecton asked Hill in writing a second time to explain why the reports were turned in late, Hill responded: “The reason I did not complete the investigations prior to the due dates is a complicated matter and is traumatic to put in writing.”
Hill said she is a target of workplace mobbing, “the ramifications of the phenomenon are so vast and so devastating, I recommended that you research workplace bullying/mobbing so you would understand. Apparently, that did not happen.”
Ecton wrote in his letter to Biehl that he interviewed Hill about the three late PSB investigations.
Ecton wrote that Hill said she was “being scapegoated,” and that the situation is a consequence of being ignored.
Hill said punishing her for something that is not her fault is unfair and wrong and is not going to change anything, according to Ecton’s letter.
Ecton wrote that Hill also mentioned “fundamental leadership and management failures,” said that nobody has been through what she has and said she is not taking responsibility for the late reports.
The city of Dayton has not yet made public a copy of video of the Maurice Brown incident that was recorded by a camera in the squad car. The Daily News has requested a copy of that video, and the department said it cannot be released because there is still an active investigation into the incident underway.
Dayton police routinely provide cruiser cam footage to media outlets during active investigations such as an officer-involved shooting earlier this month. In that incident video recorded by a police cruiser camera was provided 12 hours later and played at a press conference.
Dayton city prosecutor Stephanie Cook said earlier this year that misdemeanor charges are still being considered against a person suspected of owning the dog that killed Brown.
Cook said Wednesday that her office is waiting for “one final piece of information” before they announce if they will bring charges.