The Westover Civil Service Fee launched its closing order relating to the destiny of former Westover Police officer Aaron Dalton and can uphold the police division’s determination for termination.
Commissioners Jessica Thompson, Justin White and Robert Berryman heard 4 full days of testimony throughout a civil service listening to held earlier this yr to find out whether or not the division had simply trigger to terminate Dalton as a Westover Police Officer.
Dalton’s authentic termination by the police evaluation board was primarily based on three allegations of misconduct, however the fee didn’t agree all three have been grounds for termination.
The primary incident occurred on Aug. 25, 2019, after the arrest of William Cox. Dalton didn’t supervise a subordinate officer to safe Cox’s cellphone which contained direct video proof of the arrest. Patrolman Justice Carver testified that Dalton “chucked” Cox’s cellphone within the grass outdoors of the police station. Practically two years after the arrest, the cellphone was discovered within the proof room, however Cox in the end received a lawsuit for false arrest costing the town $750,000.
After listening to the proof and testimony the fee discovered that the incident with Cox and his cellphone didn’t violate any insurance policies of termination.
The second incident in query concerned the unlawful search of a room on the Econo Lodge resort on Aug. 26, 2020, throughout which Dalton was the highest-ranking officer. Police have been looking for Travaughn Guerrant, aka “Taco,” who they believed to be on the resort and who had an open warrant for housebreaking.
Physique digicam footage from the arrest confirmed Dalton engaged in an unlawful search of the room with out consent or a warrant regardless of junior officers advising Guerrant of his rights previous to the search. Dalton ignored this and searched the room with out consent and and not using a warrant.
The fee discovered that whereas Dalton did conduct an unlawful search and didn’t correctly supervise subordinates, the violations didn’t rise to the extent of termination.
The third allegation surrounded Dalton’s alleged “sample of harassment, bullying, sexual harassment, racism, destruction of homeless individuals’s property, urinating on homeless individuals’s property, and different violations.”
The opposite violations embrace public Fb posts made by Dalton after he was suspended. The posts made derogatory statements concerning the Westover Police Division as a complete and false statements about particular person members of the WPD.
Lots of Dalton’s coworkers, together with WPD Secretary Christine Riley, Patrolman Andrew Cather, Trooper Isiah Harmon, Patrolman Michael Keeble, Sergeant Eric Mankins, Patrolwoman Chelsea Vohwinkle, Patrolman Justice Carver and Patrolman Zachary Feckso, testified to numerous incidents of racism and harassment by Dalton which created a hostile work atmosphere.
A number of officers said that they have been afraid of Dalton and if he didn’t such as you, he would goal you.
Westover Police Chief Joe Adams testified that along with investigating the accusation in opposition to Dalton, he investigated all the accusations made by Dalton in opposition to different officers within the Fb posts and located not one of the accusations made by Dalton to be substantiated. He seen all of them as retaliatory.
The fee discovered that Dalton “engaged in a sample of abusive habits throughout his tenure with the Westover Police Division courting from incidents in 2016 by means of his placement on administrative go away in August 2021 whereby Dalton carried out himself in a fashion during which he harassed fellow officers, harassed coworkers.”
The fee additionally discovered the statements posted by Dalton in a public discussion board have been in violation of Westover metropolis coverage and insurance policies of the Westover Police Division and would harm the general public belief within the police division.
Posting clearly false statements which might be meant to hurt the status of the person and the division is, in and of itself, an offense that justifies termination, the fee’s report said.
When contemplating the totality of the allegations made in opposition to Dalton relating to hostile work atmosphere and harassment, the commissioners discovered ample proof to help a termination for simply trigger.
The commissioners decide the credibility of the witnesses on the listening to and a majority of the commissioners discovered that Dalton’s testimony relating to his explanations to WPD for his failures to adjust to insurance policies and procedures in every of the three incidents weren’t credible.
Of their report, the commissioners state that WPD established sufficient proof to indicate Dalton harassed fellow officers and workers and made false and defamatory statements on public social media posts towards the division and particular person officers. In addition they discovered that Dalton’s actions have broken his credibility with friends, supervisors and members of the neighborhood, all of whom have been negatively impacted by Dalton’s actions.
In the end, the commissioners affirmed and sustained his termination.
Matt Thorn, prosecuting legal professional for the Metropolis of Westover, stated the commissioners upholding the unique determination of the evaluation board to terminate Dalton is the very best final result for the town and an excellent determination for police typically.
“You possibly can’t have an officer act in such methods and it’s so damaging to the status of any police pressure that it causes a unfavourable view,” he stated. “Westover residents can hopefully reside a little bit simpler realizing that they’re safer with out having a menacing officer or one which has been discovered to harass others.”
Thorn stated whereas the fee discovered the Cox cellphone and unlawful search incidents didn’t rise to the extent for termination, they needed to have thought of these as components within the general determination — which comes right down to Dalton not being match to carry out the duties.
The Dominion Put up reached out to Dalton’s legal professional Christian Riddell to see in the event that they deliberate to attraction the choice however didn’t obtain a response by press time.
Thorn stated he believes Dalton’s aspect will probably attraction, however he doesn’t assume it would matter.
“Each single proper that Mr. Dalton had was exercised to its fullest and there may be completely no cause that they need to contest this with an attraction,” he stated. “The commissioners bent over backwards giving him room to get in proof, to problem proof. I believe they bent over backwards to present Mr. Dalton each single obtainable proper to make his case and, to be frank, his case was left wanting as a result of it was inadequate.”