The Mobile Personnel Board, after listening to a full day of testimony Tuesday, now has two weeks to decide whether the demotion of the former Mobile Police Department’s First Precinct commander from captain to lieutenant should stand.
Former Capt. Eddie Patrick appealed an MPD trial board decision to demote him to lieutenant and remove him from command of the First Precinct, after he and officers under his leadership were found guilty of charges related to lessening cases from felonies to misdemeanors.
Patrick was previously charged and found guilty of conduct unbecoming, failure to supervise and failure to obey a direct order related to a MPD internal affairs investigation that found during the months of January through June of last year, 85 crimes in the precinct he oversaw were misreported. Officer Scott Davis and Cpl. Damian Colvin were found guilty of conduct unbecoming and false entries. Sgt. Joe Wolfe was found guilty of failure to supervise and false entries. Wolfe was also demoted.
The focus of the investigation was on PD208 forms, which allow a detective or supervisor to add or change a charge in a report upon the gathering of more information. However, reports can also be changed after a patrol officer arrives to the scene of a crime and the circumstances for a case are different than what was reported in a 911 call.
Chief James Barber testified that in the spring of 2013, when still a deputy chief, he met with precinct captains about concerns over the downgrading of charges, specifically burglary charges being changed to criminal mischief and theft of property charges. Barber said he instructed the captains to go back to their precincts and make sure the changing of charges wasn’t happening.
“I’ve never had a meeting where I’ve been more clear,” Barber told the board.
When asked by MPD Attorney Wanda Rahman if he was zeroing in on any precinct, he said the department had received information that the misreporting was happening in the First Precinct.
Patrick told the board he never pressured any officer to improperly change a report. In fact, he said after the meeting with Barber, he told his detectives to be very careful on their reports because he “knew they’d be put under a microscope.” He said he told them not to make any improper changes on the PD208 forms.
“I was expecting they’d do everything they could to prove a point,” Patrick said.
Patrick also admitted he didn’t check behind the detectives to make sure it wasn’t happening himself because “I had a supervisor who was in charge of that.”
Barber testified that in July he began to look over cases from the First Precinct, where it was believed charges had been changed.
Barber said the department flagged a total of seven reports, six of which came from the First Precinct.
In one report, a vehicle was broken in to and a gun was stolen from the console. Barber said that case was changed from an auto burglary to theft of property in the second degree because a detective wrote on the 208 form that the doors of the vehicle had been left unlocked. Barber said he spoke to the victim in that case and learned the detective hadn’t spoken with the man prior to downgrading the charge. Barber found that one in four reports in the first precinct had been changed in May of 2013, which was a much higher percentage than in any of the other precincts.
“We thought we might be dealing with a systemic problem,” Barber told the board.
When Barber concluded his investigation in June, Internal Affairs launched an investigation into the misreporting of crimes.
Internal Affairs Sgt. Jeffrey March went back to 911 calls from January to June to determine if charges on any cases had been downgraded in that period of time in the precinct. March testified that out of 905 cases in the First Precinct that were reviewed, it was determined 85 were inappropriately changed.
“About 9 percent were changed in the First Precinct,” he told Rahman. “The citywide average is 2 ½ percent.”
March said the Second Precinct saw less than 1 percent of its cases changed during that time, with a total of three. Three cases were also changed in the Third Precinct and 11 cases were changed in the Fourth Precinct.
March said in some cases where a PD208 downgraded a charge, it was determined that detectives didn’t speak to victims before making the change.
Patrick’s attorney, Neil Hanley, argued the department had a “double-check” in place to ensure reports are filed correctly and contain the correct charge. Hanley’s cross-examination of the MPD Chief Records Clerk Tonya Hopkins focused on that.
Hopkins admitted that PD208s didn’t usually go to precinct captains at the time the investigation began and were sent to the records department by sergeants in the precincts. Since the investigation, captains now review PD208s, per department procedures.
Hanley admitted into evidence a department policy that states PD208s are to be reviewed by the records department.
“Who in records was disciplined? Hanley asked.
“No one was,” Hopkins responded.
Rahman had several witnesses, including Barber and Assistant Chief Joseph Kennedy, testify that a captain is responsible for everything under his command.
Wolfe testified that Patrick would talk to officers in the precinct about the importance of accuracy in their reports and told them not to improperly downgrade charges because he wasn’t worried about the precinct’s crime statistics.
“He said he wasn’t worried about the crime rate,” Wolfe said. “He was more concerned with stopping crime.”
Wolfe added that Patrick did not see PD208 forms. However, he admitted during cross-examination by Rahman that cases were changed by detectives on PD208s without proper justification. Wolfe said he signed off on all of those cases.
The defense had several witnesses speak to Patrick’s good work as a commander, including officers who had at one time been under his command, and citizens.