Internal documents indicate a former Mobile Police Department (MPD) officer involved in a fatal shooting in 2016 had been placed in the department’s “Personal Early Warning System” two years earlier, over concerns he may have been “too quick to implement force” in the past.
The documents were filed in a civil lawsuit brought by the mother of Michael Moore, a black teenager fatally shot by former MPD officer Harold Hurst during a traffic stop in June 2016. Police have said Moore and friends were driving a car that had been reported stolen when Hurst pulled them over. The former officer, who is white, has maintained in court documents Moore reached for a gun before he used deadly force.
An internal investigation, a Mobile County grand jury and a federal review by the Department of Justice’s Civil Rights Division all determined Hurst’s actions were justified under the circumstances. He resigned from MPD in 2017.
Despite the lack of criminal charges, Moore’s mother, Shunta Daugherty, has moved forward with a civil lawsuit against Hurst and MPD, and as part of that case, Daugherty’s attorneys have dug into Hurst’s personnel record — information MPD wouldn’t typically discuss publicly.
Recently, a refiled affidavit from Hurst’s former commander at the Third Precinct, Capt. Paul Prine, detailed time the former officer spent in the MPD’s Personal Early Warning System over his reported use of nonlethal force. Prine and others at MPD testified Hurst had never used deadly force before.
The Personal Early Warning System, as it was formerly called, is now known as the Employee Intervention Program. According to MPD, it’s a non-disciplinary program that provides additional training to certain officers on a range of issues as determined by their superiors.
In the affidavit, Prine said he was asked to review investigations of eight use-of-force instances involving Hurst that occurred between December 2012 and December 2013. He found them all to be justified and wrote in the affidavit it’s “not unusual” for officers to have to use nonlethal force on duty.
Continuing, he said in more than one of those cases a suspect had struck Hurst or another officer before he responded with any kind of heighted force and in none of the instances did Hurst violate MPD’s policies or procedures.
In a separate affidavit, Hurst’s former patrol supervisor, Lt. William Reed, wrote he didn’t think Hurst needed to be enrolled in the early warning program. Yet, Prine ultimately disagreed with Reed and, as the captain of the precinct, recommended Hurst for the program anyway in early 2014.
In a 2014 memorandum to then-police chief and current Public Safety Director James Barber, Prine wrote although he found Hurst’s use of force justified, there were some “underlying issues that may have caused the officer to act in haste when an individual did not respond quickly to his commands.”
“Although the eight investigations ultimately clear Hurst of misconduct or excessive force, it is conceivable that the officer was either too quick to implement force without taking in the full scope of the situation or lacked tact and diplomacy in dealing with those individuals who did not readily recognize his authority,” Prine continues in the memo.
MPD doesn’t discuss pending lawsuits as a matter of policy. A spokesperson also told Lagniappe any information or statistics about the number of officers in its Employee Intervention Program couldn’t be released because personnel matters aren’t disclosed to protect employees’ privacy.
It should be noted, in other correspondence made public as part of the lawsuit, Prine told officials at MPD he was satisfied with Hurst’s performance in the program after a few months and recommended he be removed from it. He described Hurst as “a good officer” who was “well versed in MPD’s use-of-force policies and demonstrated, with proficiency, the application and discretion of the use of force.”
Daugherty’s lawsuit is set for a jury trial in June. U.S. District Judge Terry Moorer had ordered a settlement conference in late February, but the public filings since then don’t give the impression any kind of agreement was reached. Documents from the lawsuit are available to review at lagniappemobile.com.
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