PD policy aids investigation, officer

Published 8:05 pm Tuesday, March 30, 2010

In the aftermath of the March 19 officer-involved shooting on Central Avenue, the Suffolk Police Department was required to implement a procedure it has not used in more than 15 years.

The Police Department’s official policy and procedure manual outlines four pages of steps that should be taken after an officer-involved shooting that results in death or serious bodily injury.

Tedlee Hargrove, 49, was shot by police at the corner of Pinner Street and Central Avenue on March 19 after police say he fired a shot from his upstairs porch at 213 ½ Central Ave. Officers ordered the man to put down his shotgun, and he initially began to do so. But then he raised the shotgun up again, police say, and two officers shot at the man, striking him once in the arm. Hargrove died in the hospital March 27, eight days after the incident. Both officers remain on administrative leave pending an investigation by the department.

The police department’s procedures involve numerous steps designed to aid the investigation of the incident and safeguard the mental health of the involved officers and their families.

According to policy, immediately after an officer-involved shooting, a supervisor should be dispatched to the scene. He assumes primary responsibility for caring for involved personnel.

The supervisor makes arrangements for necessary medical treatment, allows the officer to be taken to a quiet area away from the incident, and has a supportive friend or fellow officer remain with the officers involved. The supervisor also confiscates the officer’s duty weapon for laboratory analysis.

According to policy, the involved officers should not be given any medication unless administered by medical personnel. The involved officers are asked only minimal, preliminary questions, but undergo a more detailed debriefing at a later time.

They also are advised not to discuss the incident with anyone except a personal or agency attorney, departmental investigator or union representative, but they are encouraged to notify their families as soon as possible.

In the days following the shooting, involved personnel are removed from line duties and assigned to administrative functions, according to the policy.

All who are directly involved with the shooting incident are required to contact a department-assigned specialist for counseling and evaluation as soon as possible after the incident. The specialist then advises the police department whether it would be in the officer’s best interest to be placed on administrative leave or light duty, even after the investigation if complete. The officers’ family members also are encouraged to seek out counseling services.

The departmental investigation of the incident “shall be conducted as soon and as quickly as practical,” according to the policy. After the police department’s investigation is complete, it is forwarded to the Commonwealth’s Attorney for review.

Commonwealth’s Attorney C. Phillips Ferguson was out of the office Tuesday and was unavailable for comment, but Suffolk spokesperson Debbie George said the investigation has not yet been turned over to Ferguson’s office.