No charges against York police chief in April chase incident
07/02/2014 4:37 PM
07/02/2014 10:04 PM
Prosecutors will not file criminal charges against York Police Chief Andy Robinson for his use of force and apparently stepping on a suspect after an April high-speed police chase.
Police dashcam video of Jacob Floyd Bailey’s arrest after he was accused of stealing a car shows Robinson approach Bailey when he is already down on the ground and at least partially handcuffed, surrounded by several officers. The video of the April 4 incident, first obtained by The Herald, appears to show that the chief steps on Bailey.
The State Law Enforcement Division investigated the incident at the request of York city officials and passed its findings on to 10th Circuit Solicitor Chrissy Adams.
In a letter to SLED investigators dated Wednesday, Adams said that, while Robinson’s actions “may be deemed inappropriate, his conduct does not rise to the level of criminal culpability.”
Adams asked state agents not to file charges and urged them to close the case, which had been assigned to the Anderson County prosecutor because of Robinson’s working relationship with York County prosecutors.
The video shows Robinson approaching Bailey after other officers had removed him from the car. About 10 seconds later, Robinson raises his right leg and shifts his body weight forward. Robinson then plants his right foot and moves backward. Bailey, while still on the ground, moves slightly.
The video does not clearly show what Robinson stepped on, because the view is blocked by an officer who is kneeling beside Bailey during the arrest.
The Herald has previously reported York officials saying the suspect was handcuffed.
In an exclusive interview with The Herald on Wednesday, Robinson said Bailey was not fully handcuffed at the time of the incident, and that investigators and city officials were told that fact after they had been shown the video. He did not dispute the appearance on the video of his stepping on the suspect.
“I’m just glad it’s over,” Robinson said.
Robinson was suspended for three days in May for violating York’s pursuit policy in the April chase, but he has remained on the job otherwise.
Robinson was named police chief in December 2010 after longtime Police Chief Bill Mobley retired. In 2013, federal prosecutors gave Robinson a prestigious Strom Thurmond award for excellence in law enforcement.
In a written statement sent to The Herald, Robinson thanked people who had supported him since the video surfaced.
“I am grateful that the 10th Circuit solicitor concluded what I knew to be the case the entire time,” he said in the statement. “I am thankful to... City Manager Charles Helms, to the citizens of York, the numerous business owners in York and the countless law enforcement officers from around the state who called, emailed, texted and visited me in person to show their support and offer their encouragement while never once questioning my integrity.
“Now that this is concluded, I hope that the York Police Department can put all this behind us and move forward and continue to serve the citizens of York in the manner that they deserve and expect.”
The chase reached speeds of 137 mph and went far outside the city limits.
Three other York officers were disciplined – one suspended for a day, two given written reprimands – and a York County sheriff’s deputy received a written reprimand for violating their respective departments’ pursuit policies.
York Mayor Eddie Lee, one of the most vocal critics of the chase and how city officials handled the case afterward, said his main concern was the high speeds officers reached, which endangered more than 100 people, according to an internal York police review.
“The actions were clearly inappropriate,” Lee said. “This incident was very serious.”
An officer must weigh a decision to begin a chase with the potential danger a suspect poses to the public, according to York Police Department policy. The internal York Police review found that not dropping the chase was negligent after officers used “extremely dangerous speeds.”
Robinson should have been placed on administrative leave while the incident was investigated, Lee said. Robinson’s suspension came a month after the incident, but no other actions were taken by Helms, who is Robinson’s supervisor.
Helms has said Robinson’s actions did not warrant placing him on administrative leave.
Neither Lee nor Helms knew about prosecutors’ decision not to press charges until contacted by The Herald on Wednesday. After reading Adams’ one-paragraph letter to SLED, Helms said, “it is clear (Robinson) was found not culpable of any criminal charges, and I don’t foresee anything else against him.”
Helms pointed out that he suspended Robinson for three days for violating the chase policy, not for the actions that SLED and prosecutors investigated.
As for Robinson’s status in York, Helms said, “He’s still the police chief.”
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