I-Team: Internal investigation at KDPS over student accusations
Updated: Saturday, August 3 2013, 01:09 AM EDT
KALAMAZOO, Mich. (NEWSCHANNEL 3) - The Newschannel 3 I-Team has learned that Kalamazoo Public Safety Officers caught on tape directly disobeying a judge may soon have to face him in court.
The Kalamazoo Department of Public Safety is in the middle of an internal investigation.
Dozens of charges against college students have been thrown out because a judge determined Kalamazoo Public Safety officers had provided false information to obtain search warrants at house parties.
Amid allegations of excessive force, many of the students are considering suing the department and the city for violating their civil rights.
Now, Newschannel 3 is looking into what may lie ahead for the officers involved.
Many inside Kalamazoo's legal community are looking for decisive action from KDPS to prevent incidents like this from happening.
If no decisive action is taken, Newschannel 3 has learned that Judge Westra, who signed the warrant in February, has the ability to order a public hearing where he could question all the officers involved to determine what went wrong and who's to blame.
Clearly, that would cause friction with the department, but sources say this is a systemic issue that has to be handled, and some believe the problem is demonstrated in exclusive video obtained by Newschannel 3.
In the video, an officer can be overheard getting out of his car, saying "(expletive) hate these kids. I want to punch every one of them in the face."
Once he actually reaches the party, he seems professional and reasonable, but his demeanor changes when the door is shut and locked in his face.
"If we have to go get a search warrant, everybody is going to jail who lives here, so I suggest you just open it and deal with it," he can be overheard saying. "All we're going to do is tell you to turn your music down and tell everyone to go home, but if you want to make it hard, we can definitely make it hard."
Attorney Tom Ripley represents two of the young people arrested in February.
"At the very least, there were misrepresentations made," he said.
"I believe that Judge Westra never would have signed the warrant if accurate information was presented to him."
The students arrested at that time are making allegations similar to those arrested at a home on Axtell back in October.
"They were just pulling kids from their beds," said one student.
"As I opened the door, I looked directly down a barrel," recalled another.
"I was aware of the case back in October, and frankly, I thought enough is enough, something needs to be done about this," Ripley said.
Ripley says that at least a dozen students from the two incidents in question have contacted him about the possibility of a civil suit, but no final decision has been made.
As for the internal investigation, Kalamazoo Public Safety Chief Jeff Hadley told Newschannel 3 he hopes to have a final report sometime next week.
Only time will tell if Kalamazoo's legal community will find the department's actions sufficient.