Judge limits testimony about internal Bisard probes as top commanders take the stand

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On a day when top IMPD commanders took the stand, Allen Superior Court Judge John Surbeck warned attorneys in the State v. Bisard trial that he would not allow testimony before jurors about various internal police investigations into the fatal Aug. 6, 2010, crash between a Metro police officer and a trio of motorcyclists.

Those investigations painted a picture of a confused initial response, lack of interest by top public safety and police command and a controversial decision to draw David Bisard’s blood at a clinic and not at a hospital.

Defense attorney John Kautzman wanted to strike any reference to conversations Bisard had at the crash scene that day asking if he would lose his job over the accident, saying it opened the door to IMPD internal investigations and penalties.

Lead prosecutor Denise Robinson argued that the statement indicated Bisard had some knowledge of wrongdoing.

Judge Surbeck ruled that while the conversation could be related to the jury, he would not permit a far ranging discussion of other IMPD internal inquiries.

“Let’s not use this as a stepping stone to other things,” said the judge.

Assistant Chief Ron Hicks, who was the deputy chief of operations the day of the crash, testified in full uniform with a gold badge and several commendations.

Hicks, Major John Conley and Assistant Chief Darryl Pierce were the top ranking command officers at the scene and were all demoted and criticized for their perceived lack of control of the investigation in its initial phases by former Police Chief Paul Ciesielski, former Public Safety Director Frank Straub and Mayor Greg Ballard.

Earlier this year, the city provided a $175,000 payment to the three officers as the result of a lawsuit claiming they were unfairly demoted.

Pierce retired and Hicks and Conley were eventually given new command assignments.

Hicks told jurors as he arrived at the scene, he spotted several wrecked vehicles including Bisard’s patrol car.

“I had a brief conversation with him,” said Hicks. “He said, ‘I’m okay.'”

Bisard sat up straight at the defense table and angled himself toward the witness stand as Hicks identified him.

Hicks said Bisard seemed upset and his eyes were puffy and red during their conversation.

When Robinson asked Hicks if he noted any signs of intoxication in Bisard, the 25-year veteran answered, “I did not. Not at all.”

Hicks told Robinson that on the day of the crash, there were, “literally thousands” of outstanding D felony warrants in Marion County with 20,000 outstanding felony warrants total.

Bisard was on his way to voluntarily assist with the search for a low-level drug offender at the time of the accident with lights and sirens operating.

Motorcyclist George Burt testified that while he could hear the siren, he had no option to leave the roadway and avoid Bisard’s oncoming car.

Under cross-examination, Hicks recalled that he saw no signs of impairment or unusual behavior in Bisard that morning though he later testified that a built-up tolerance for alcohol can make it harder to detect those signs in a driver.

Commander John Conley took command of the accident scene that morning and described how Bisard’s car straddled the median area of East 56th Street at Brandon Way South Drive.

After checking on Bisard’s condition, Conley said he called for FACT 6, a Fatal Alcohol Crash Team of investigators who respond to scenes where there are no apparent signs of impairment but a blood draw may be requested.

Conley said he did not observe any signs of intoxication.

The commander testified that 20,000 outstanding felony warrants in Marion County is, “probably an everyday number.”

Conley said routine and urgent responses do not require lights and sirens activated on patrol cars, and that officers are directed to stop at intersections to check for traffic.

An emergency response requires lights and sirens when life or well-being is at risk but the response must be conducted in a safe manner.

Conley said that K9 officers must not supersede department guidelines in responding to a call for assistance.

Robinson asked Conley if a report of a D felony warrant suspect necessitated an emergency response. Conley said such a call would be classified as routine, leading to the lowest level of urgency. Upon cross-examination, Conley said he did not activate his lights and sirens as he respond to the crash scene.

Conley said Metro P.D. expects its officers to back each other up in the search for wanted suspects.

Kautzman asked about the condition of Bisard’s K9 partner and said to Conley, “You had full faith and confidence that he had full control of his competence?”

Conley agreed but said it was an activity that Bisard accomplished everyday.

Kautzman pointed out that officers are often distracted with other policing duties while driving.