The Dec. 3 firing of an officer over a 2017 false arrest highlights changes underway in the DeLand Police Department.
Had the Sept. 14, 2017, incident happened today, DeLand Police Chief Jason Umberger said, Officer Johan Mulero’s policy violations would have been discovered far sooner than nearly 15 months later.
Mulero, who had been with the department since February 2013, was fired after an internal-affairs investigation that included a review of video from Mulero’s body-worn camera, recorded during Mulero’s encounter with DeLandite Allan Kidd.
The now-former officer was dispatched to the corner of South Orange and West New York avenues, in response to a report of a man yelling at passing traffic. In the seven-minute video, Mulero is heard repeatedly yelling at Kidd and ultimately shoving him to the ground and cuffing him.
Kidd had committed no crime, the internal-affairs investigation found. The charge Mulero lodged against him — resisting an officer without violence — was dropped by the State Attorney’s Office.
What’s different now?
For one thing, Chief Umberger said, the Police Department would have had access earlier to the footage from Mulero’s body-worn camera. In this case, because of trouble the department was having with the camera system in 2017, the Police Department didn’t know the full video existed until earlier this year, when Allan Kidd’s attorney sent it to the city, along with a notice that Kidd was planning to sue.
The case was settled out of court, for an undisclosed amount of money.
“If this would have happened with everything we have in place now, there would have been a response-to-resistance report done, and we would have seen the video, because now our video works — the whole capture system and everything,” Chief Umberger said.
In 2017, the chief explained, a “response to resistance” report, also called a use-of-force report, was not required in this case.
“There was a small loophole in our policy that said he didn't have to fill out a report … there were some instances where it didn't require you to do that,” Umberger said.
A response-to-resistance report would have triggered a review of the Allan Kidd arrest much sooner.
The loophole has been fixed, Umberger said, and the department is making other changes in light of the incident.
The Police Department will now review every arrest where the only charge is for resisting an officer without violence.
More training on encounters between police and citizens, and on when it’s proper to detain a citizen on suspicion of a crime, is also on the horizon.
Umberger said while the department already does de-escalation training, more is planned, including utilizing a program through a partnership with the University of Central Florida.
“We have entered into a partnership with Dr. Kim Gryglewicz at the Center for Behavioral Health Research and Training at UCF, and will all receive training on mental health/de-escalation training called Youth Mental Health First Aid,” he said. “In addition, we will be hosting outside training from the [U.S. Department of Justice] VALOR program, which provides excellent de-escalation training.”
Umberger pointed out, however, that Mulero had undergone several de-escalation training sessions — as required of all officers — but failed to use the skills he learned.
“He had a lot of training in this area, and most of our officers do,” Umberger said. “Some of our brand-new ones, we've got to get them into the training pipeline, but all of our existing employees, they don't have any excuse to act like that.”