DECATUR, Ala. (WHNT) — Decatur Police Chief Todd Pinion said he ‘found reason to believe that policies were violated’ in the shooting death of Stephen Perkins, and his opinion is that discipline is warranted.
Perkins was killed by police in the early morning hours of September 29th, following an incident surrounding a vehicle repossession. The Alabama Law Enforcement Agency (ALEA) was notified, responded to the scene and began its investigation of the shooting. An ALEA spokesman told News 19 on Tuesday afternoon that its investigation is ongoing.
The Decatur Police Department (DPD) also opened an internal investigation following the shooting, and the officer involved was placed on administrative leave. Pinion released a statement on Nov. 9, saying the department’s internal investigation was completed but indicated his recommendation is not the last word on possible discipline.
In a statement released on Friday, Pinion said that he met with the involved officers concerning the investigation and reviewed the findings on Thursday, giving them “an opportunity to be heard” before he made a decision.
He stated he found reason to believe policies were violated and findings were sent to the Legal Department and outside counsel on Friday afternoon to prepare documents to move forward the discipline process. Pinion added that though he can’t issue discipline, it’s his opinion that discipline is warranted.
In the weeks following Perkins’ death, there have been outcries for justice from the Decatur community, and Pinion addressed these calls in his statement. You can read Pinion’s entire statement below:
“The internal investigation by the Decatur Police Department’s Office of Professional Standards into the death of Stephen Perkins is complete. On Thursday, I met with the involved officers concerning the report, reviewed the findings, and gave them an opportunity to be heard before I made any decision. I found reason to believe that policies were violated and the final report and findings were sent to the Legal Department and outside counsel late this afternoon to prepare the formal documents to move forward the discipline process.
Under our merit system rules, a chief of police cannot issue discipline beyond written reprimands and it is my professional opinion that such discipline is warranted. The Mayor will conduct a review and make a final determination if discipline is warranted and to what extent.
The officer who fired his weapon remains on paid administrative leave. As a matter of policy, officers who are placed on administrative leave continue to be paid while due process takes place. The other two officers who were on-duty at the time of the shooting and the involved supervisor remain on-duty but on administrative assignments.
Additionally, I have made the determination that while the Decatur Police Department policies and procedures are accredited through the Commission on Accreditation for Law Enforcement Agencies (CALEA), we will be conducting a review of all policies and updating or adding policies that could help reduce the likelihood of something like this ever happening again.
I also want to address reports in the media about Mr. Perkins’ vehicle being repossessed by the recovery company shortly after Mr. Perkins was shot. This is true, and while no policy exists for every potential situation a police department may encounter, I fully understand why the officers’ decision to allow this to occur caused additional hurt to Mr. Perkins’ family and our community. I am sorry for the additional pain caused and pledge we are working to address the culture of our police department to ensure compassion remains at the top of our core values.
I would like to remind the public that the Decatur Police Department’s administrative investigation and any outcome pertain to the violation of department policy only. The Alabama Law Enforcement Agency is conducting a separate criminal investigation to determine if there were any violations of Alabama law.
Finally, my thoughts remain with the family and friends of Mr. Perkins and all those in our community and beyond impacted by his death. This has been a very painful chapter for Decatur and I recognize healing will not occur for many until after all information that can be released has been made public and all determinations on violation of policy and state law completed and potential litigation resolved. As I have stated before, while the Decatur Police Department is not in control of when information pertaining to the criminal investigation will be released, I remain committed to encouraging it be shared as soon as feasible. The City of Decatur will continue to share any new information that is able to be shared as it becomes available.”Decatur Police Chief Todd Pinion
Now, the final decision on discipline for the officers is in the hands of Mayor Bowling. Alabama law includes civil service due process protections for police officers and other municipal employees facing possible disciplinary action.
Prior to Friday night’s planned demonstration, protesters gathered at the city hall just as the news came down. Some in Decatur say the chief’s statement on policies being violated was not a victory for Perkins’ family.
Protesters say the findings that policies were violated were something they already knew and they’re expecting Decatur Mayor Tab Bowling to take immediate action as soon as possible.
Some who have been protesting since early on like Terrance Adkins say it’s unacceptable for the officers involved in the Perkins shooting to still be employed by the department.
“If we’re talking about taking steps this isn’t a forward or a backward step, this is a lateral step to me,” Adkins told News 19. “It’s just to pacify what’s going on in Decatur, you’re letting people still reside in the department that have violated policy, I don’t think that that’s right. I don’t think it’s safe for the community.”
People in the River City say the Decatur Police Department needs to address its policies to prevent a situation like this from happening in the future.
News 19 spoke to Alabama State Fraternal Order of Police President Everette Johnson on November 14. He said the due process protections for government employees are not unique to police officers. However, he added that when officer discipline issues arise — the multi-step, deliberative process provides protections for both officers and city governments.