Internal affairs investigation concludes officers involved in Cox case violated NHPD policy
Officers involved in the incident were cited in the IA report for not having their body cameras on during the incident, improperly using a phone while driving and lying to investigators.
NHPD Body Camera Footage
The officers who arrested and paralyzed Randy Cox were reckless, lacked compassion and were in violation of both state law and numerous department policies, according to a New Haven Police Department Internal Affairs report obtained by the News.
The 70-page report concluded that the officers involved were at fault in the June 19 arrest, which left Cox paralyzed from the chest down. Charges against the five officers cited behaviors including “recklessly handling” Cox during the incident, failing to turn on their body cameras, swearing at Cox while he was injured and giving “untruthful” statements to investigators.
New Haven Chief of Police Karl Jacobson has recommended to the Board of Police Commissioners that the four involved officers who are still employed by the department should be fired.
“The announcement that Chief Jacobson is recommending termination of the 4 police officers is but one step in the process of seeking justice for Randy Cox,” Cox’s attorney R.J. Weber told the News. “Ultimately, the justice we seek is for Randy Cox to live a full life as best he can, given the brutal, life-altering injuries he has suffered at the hands of these New Haven police officers.”
Details from the Internal Affairs report depict a chaotic scene when Cox was removed from the police vehicle after his arrest. The report documents the officers’ use of improper force to remove Cox, who was visibly injured at the time, from the vehicle. In statements given to the investigators, officers stated that they believed that Cox was intoxicated despite having no definitive proof of this.
The five officers involved in the investigation have been charged with misdemeanors for their role in paralyzing Cox, though his family and attorneys have decried those charges as inadequate.
The New Haven Board of Police Commissioners will hear the case in late April and will make a final recommendation on the employment of Officers Oscar Diaz, Jocelyn Lavandier and Luis Rivera and Sergeant Betsy Segui. Ronald Pressley, the fifth officer involved in the incident, voluntarily retired before the investigation finished.
Inside the report
The report details the timeline of events leading up to the collision that paralyzed Cox, as well as his mistreatment by officers once he arrived at the NHPD Detention Center. It also includes summaries of the interviews of the officers by investigators, and ends by detailing the litany of laws and department policies that were violated during Cox’s time in custody.
The first breach of department policy that the report notes was by Diaz, the officer who was driving the van and paralyzed Cox when he stopped suddenly to avoid a collision. Diaz failed to call medical personnel to the scene of the accident and instead directed the ambulance to the detention center, delaying immediate care for Cox.
Once Cox arrived at the detention center, the report faults the officers for acting without “compassion” or “remorse” when Cox told them he was injured. The report lays out numerous instances where officers discounted Cox’s pleas for help, claiming that Cox “was drunk” and “faking it.”
Lavandier, one of the officers who received Cox at the detention center, stated in her interview that she dragged his limp body across the floor into a cell. She explained her behavior by stating that “they thought he was highly intoxicated, faking, or just exaggerating.”
The report also highlights Segui’s misconduct throughout the incident. As a sergeant, Segui was in charge of supervising the other officers’ behavior at the detention center. She did not wear her body camera during the incident.
Segui also lied to investigators about the sequence of events, according to the report. During her first interview with Internal Affairs, Segui told investigators that she had not heard radio transmissions from Diaz calling for an ambulance. But in a Word document obtained by investigators titled “Randy Cox” which Segui began writing the day after the incident at the request of the Sergeant on duty, she wrote that she did hear the transmissions.
Segui initially told investigators that she did not know why her Body Worn Camera did not have footage, but later said she left it behind because she was rushing to the scene after seeing lights and hearing sirens. Diaz’s body camera footage shows that there were no sirens. The report cites her for misleading investigators with changed testimony on her Body Worn Camera.
The report also highlighted violations of the code of conduct by two additional police officers who were not arrested and had not previously been held at fault.
Sergeant Steven Spofford, the supervisor in charge of Cox’s arrest, was found in violation of department policy for failing to hear or react to Diaz’s radio transmission where he describes Cox’s injury.
In a previously unreported incident, Officer Roberto Ortiz, who was working in the booking area of the detention center, was recorded on camera telling Cox to “man the fuck up” while he was being placed on a stretcher by EMTs. Ortiz also violated department policy by failing to wear a body camera.
Gregory Cerritelli, Segui’s lawyer, wrote to the News that he was “not surprised” by the police chief’s recommendation of termination. He noted that the department has changed 50 policies since the June 19 incident and argued that the officers are being made “scapegoats.”
“I fully expect these officers to be fired,” Gerritelli wrote to the News. “There is no due process at this stage of the proceedings and the entire process lacks fundamental fairness. It is obvious to even a casual observer that these officers are being used as scapegoats for a department that had, and has, woefully inadequate training and policies.”
Jacobson told the News that officers were called in to interview with Internal Affairs and legal counsel during the process and also had one-on-one conversations with Jacobson.
According to Evelise Robero, the chair of the Board of Police Commissioners, the officers will be able to defend themselves during the public hearings slated for late April. They will also receive a minimum of a 28-day notice before the hearing takes place and can opt to make any part of the proceedings private.
Jorge Camacho, policy director of the justice collaboratory at Yale Law School, said the officers would likely fight the disciplinary action, since negative action from the police department could be used against officers during a pending criminal trial.
“I anticipate that we may see some pushback from the officers themselves or their lawyers who try to contest the firing,” Camacho told the News. “So I imagine that as part of their overall defense strategy, they’ll contest any adverse findings of any kind, including administrative findings of wrongdoing within the department.”
The five officers involved have all been charged with two misdemeanors: reckless endangerment in the second degree and cruelty to person. They were arrested on Nov. 28 and released on $25,000 bonds. They have all pleaded not guilty to the charges, with their criminal trial still ongoing.
NAACP Connecticut President Scot X. Esdaile, who has helped represent the Cox family, told the News that the recommendation is a “move in the right direction,” but he also questioned why it took nine months for the recommendation to be made.
“When the Tyre Nichols investigation was expedited, it took 20 days,” Esdaile told the News. “This recommendation has taken nine months. Our ancestors taught us that justice delayed is justice denied, and we hope and pray that the New Haven Board of Police Commissioners does the right thing and makes sure that Randy Cox and his family receives justice now!”
Jacobson told the News that the city was not able to move as quickly as the Nichols investigation or others because of parameters set by the current police contract and the current city charter. Camacho further explained that the nine month period was “normal” for a case with heavy media coverage considering the process that must be followed in an IA investigation.
Mayoral candidate Liam Brennan told the News that while the decision to fire was a positive step, the amount of time taken for the report to be written was representative of a city administration which “remains out of fresh ideas” with “no appetite to innovate for New Haven’s public safety.”
Brennan, who serves as the inspector general of Hartford’s civilian review board, has previously criticized Elicker and the city’s Civilian Review Board — a board empowered by the city’s charter to investigate complaints of police misconduct — for not acting forcefully enough against malfeasance.
“Chief Jacobson’s decision to recommend firing the officers involved in paralyzing Randy Cox is the right move, but it also comes much delayed,” Brennan told News. “The terrible events surrounding Randy Cox’s injuries should be a cause for a full-scale reevaluation of how we conduct policing in New Haven. Instead, City Hall remains out of fresh ideas with an unsupported Civilian Review Board and no appetite to innovate New Haven’s approach to public safety.”
Cox has also sued the city for $100 million dollars for violating his civil rights, with the lawsuit ongoing.