April 30, 2014

SLED finishes probe of York police, city official says

The State Law Enforcement Division has completed its investigation into York Police Chief Andy Robinson's use of force during an arrest in early April, York city officials say.

The State Law Enforcement Division has completed its investigation into York Police Chief Andy Robinson's use of force during an arrest in early April, York city officials say.

In an e-mail to City Council members on Tuesday, City Manager Charlie Helms said SLED had finished its investigation and that city officials have released video and audio from a police chase and arrest incident that led to SLED’s review.

However, SLED spokesman Thom Berry on Wednesday said the case will remain “open and ongoing” until the 16th Circuit Solicitor's Office determines if criminal charges should be filed against Robinson or anyone else.

Solicitor Kevin Brackett said his office had not yet received the case file and he was unsure when it would arrive. After state agents finish their investigation, they must compile a report that undergoes a review and approval process by supervisors before it is sent to prosecutors.

After Brackett’s office receives the SLED report, it’s unknown how long it will take the solicitor to make a decision, he said, adding that it “depends on the complexity of the investigation.”

Whether more than one prosecutor might be involved in reviewing the file varies from case to case and will not be decided until the file arrives at the York County Solicitor's Office, Brackett said.

City officials had not released the video before Tuesday, Helms writes, because “SLED was concerned that an early release might contaminate witness recollections and statements, but that should no longer be a concern.”

The Herald first reported on the video footage last week after obtaining video and audio from the April 4 arrest involving Robinson. The video raises questions about whether Robinson stepped on a handcuffed suspect lying on the ground after a police chase.

Helms' email does not provide any details about SLED's findings. Helms and Robinson have declined to comment about the chase or arrest since The Herald first reported on the investigation on last week.

Robinson has remained on the job at the police department throughout the SLED investigation. Next week, York City Council members are set to discuss Robinson behind closed doors, Mayor Eddie Lee said.

Robinson reports to York’s city manager, not the council. York City Council members do not have direct authority over the city’s police chief.

On Wednesday, Lee reiterated his concerns about the April 4 chase, citing a recent chase in Florence County in which both a police officer and suspect were injured after shots were fired following the pursuit. During that chase, the suspect's car crashed into a utility pole and an officer's patrol car crashed into a ditch.

The April 4 chase in York County, Lee said, was “well outside our jurisdiction.” The chase –– which began after a man stole a car from the BP gas station and China Garden eatery in York –– extended briefly into Rock Hill before ending in York County.

Officers arrested a man in a driveway on Park Place Road, off S.C. 5, outside the York city limits.

Pursuits pose “a dangerous situation for innocent people who happen to be on a road that even under normal circumstances” is unsafe, Lee said.

Law enforcement officials involved in the April 4 chase reported speeds of more than 100 miles per hour in pursuit of the suspect. Police video footage from the incident shows at least one near collision as officers chased the suspect in a stolen car.

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