Law Enforcer Mike Stauffer reacts to death of Ernest M. Atencio
by Hispanic-Politico on Dec. 26, 2011,
Law Enforcement Analysis of the Ernest Atencio Incident
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE:
December 26, 2011
Police Lt. Mike Stauffer
MCSO Candidate • 2012
In expressing my dismay about the incident that occurred in the MCSO 4th Avenue intake area on December 16, 2011, I have angered some people employed by MCSO. To those individuals, I say, the information that I acted on came from inside the MCSO. There are employees of the organization who are disgusted by the actions of a few and will speak out.
As sheriff, I will not tolerate this behavior or this attitude. I will not tolerate those who stand by and allow this type of incident to take place. Know that the days of covering up behind stalling tactics are over. The cover-up is frequently worse than the incident itself. The MCSO is under a microscope. Even if it was not, I expect all the employees should understand that they are held to a very high standard of conduct and will be held accountable for their actions. I am outraged that even one employee of the MCSO would stand by as this incident unfolded and did nothing to intervene. I am outraged by the atmosphere and attitude fostered by Arpaio that allowed this to happen. Know that those who continue to carry this attitude will have no place at the MCSO.
I stipulate that I have not been privy to an unedited video and have formed some
conclusions based on the video available on You Tube (http://tinyurl.com/7evqt6n) and the report by Fox 10 News in Phoenix (http://tinyurl.com
/7nbuyma). What I saw disturbed me greatly on many levels.
Ernest Atencio according to reports, was arrested for misdemeanor assault. He had not seen a judge. He had not even gone through the full intake process.
Nevertheless, the offense he was arrested for, even if found guilty and convicted at trial, did not warrant a death sentence. American law enforcement is not judge or jury.
Ernest Atencio arrived at the intake area under his own power and apparently healthy. He did not initially appear physically combative, and in fact, the Phoenix Police officers released him from his handcuffs. It has not been reported what the conversation was between PPD officers and Mr. Atencio that precipitated the officers to grab him and attempt to restrain him.
If the reason for the physical contact was to put Mr. Atencio back into handcuffs, why do none of the officers have handcuffs out? There are no restraining tools of any kind visible.
As Mr. Atencio struggles with the officers, a Phoenix officer appears to put Mr. Atencio into a choke hold (2:11), which is considered a deadly force tactic, and takes him forcefully to the ground. It appears that Mr. Atencio goes limp for several seconds at this point. The Phoenix officer is then pushed away by an MCSO detention officer and at least six detention officers appear to be pinning Mr. Atencio to the floor.
Although he can’t be seen under the pile of at least six detention officers, it appears that Mr. Atencio suddenly surges and the detention officers apply a Taser in “drive stun” mode. This tactic involves firing a barb from close range, into the subject and then repositioning the Taser to make contact and complete a circuit that delivers an immobilizing electric current to the subject for a five second duration. The detention officers do not appear to be restraining Mr. Atencio during any of the applications, as those properly trained to use a Taser are instructed. Taser training also warns that repeated applications of the Taser is dangerous to the health of a subject and de-escalation tactics to bring the subject under control should be employed during the subject’s incapacitation to prevent the need for continued force.
Equally disturbing are the actions of the other officers in the area. Several officers run into view from other areas and try to join in the pile. Others appear to be mocking Mr. Atencio and laughing about the encounter. Their behavior reinforces the perception the officers have a callous disregard for Mr. Atencio’s well being.
In the holding cell, a detention officer is seen making what appears to be knee strikes to Mr. Atencio’s head. Another detention officer puts a restraining hand on that officer’s shoulder to stop him. This occurs while Mr. Atencio is being held down by at least five other detention officers. The application of knee strikes to the head while Mr. Atencio is being restrained is an inappropriately high level of force for the circumstances.
Mr. Atencio is limp and unresponsive; yet, he is stripped of his clothing and dumped on the floor of a holding cell. The medical personnel present do not appear to ascertain Mr. Atencio’s medical status. No medical follow-up is conducted and Mr. Atencio is left alone. This again is contrary to Taser policies and training. Training dictates that anyone subjected to a Taser application be seen immediately after the situation is stabilized by certified medical personnel. A person subjected to multiple Taser applications should be seen by an emergency room Physician.
The vague statement issued by Chief McIntyre that night after the story broke suggests an attempt to cover up the situation. His statement indicates that there was no in-custody death that night, an outright falsehood. The week delay in releasing the video and the timing of the release further suggests an all out attempt to bury the story by the MCSO.
These situations require an open, timely release of preliminary findings. Delay and vagueness only fuel anger and distrust in the community. Hiding behind a wall of silence is not appropriate. The leader of the organization must be front and center and accountable to the community. Only in this way can the organization be trusted to do what is right.
Police Lt. Mike Stauffer
Police Lt. Mike Stauffer
Maricopa County Sheriff • Candidate 2012