A deposition given by the former chief of the Indianapolis Metropolitan Police Department blames ex-public safety director Frank Straub for the demotions of three top commanders in the David Bisard case in an attempt to improve Straub’s public image.
Darryl Pierce, John Conley and Ron Hicks have sued the city for what they call their unwarranted demotions for allegedly losing control of the investigation the day a metro policeman ran down three motorcyclists, killing one, in August 2010.
Those demotions fed into the public perception of a cover-up of Bisard’s alleged drunkenness the day of the crash, said attorneys Bob Turner and Jeff McQuary.
In a demand letter dated Oct. 25, 2012, obtained by Fox59 News, attorneys representing the officers told the city that their clients would be willing to settle for $300,000 apiece to compensate for their demotions and the negative impact on their professional reputations.
“Straub spoke before he knew the facts,” wrote McQuary. “This is the definition of reckless disregard for the truth.”
In a deposition given on Oct. 16, 2012, former police chief Paul Ciesielski referred to the three ex-commanders as some of the finest officers with whom he’s ever served.
Ciesielski confirmed, as Fox59 News first reported within weeks of the crash, the day of the accident he was in Straub’s office talking with the director about his poor public image because, “the gist of the conversation was on the director’s part, no one likes or supports me.”
Due to inadequate re-training and contradictory and incomplete General Orders, there was a perception that Hicks, Pierce and Conley let the investigation that day get away from them even though cell phone, text messaging and email records obtained by Fox59 News indicate that commanders on the scene of the East 56th Street crash repeatedly informed Ciesielski of its serious nature and the chief kept Straub, “apprised of the information that Chief Pierce had given me.”
Within days it was determined that Bisard tested .19% for blood alcohol content after the crash.
Straub told Ciesielski to ask his top commanders what they did on the scene that day, why didn’t they determine Bisard was drunk and why Bisard was sent to a Methodist Hospital clinic for blood testing.
“He was not happy,” Ciesielski said of Straub once he learned of the blood test results. “He was upset and very concerned about how, you know, we were going to handle this in the media.”
Ciesielski questioned Hicks, Pierce and Conley and was ready to report back to Straub the findings of his investigation on Aug. 20. “It was when I returned after speaking with them when I think (Straub) had already made the decision that this (the demotions) was going to happen,” Ciesielski said in the deposition.
“The director’s mind was made up that all four of them would be stripped of their appointed rank,” Ciesielski continued. “The mayor actually came in the office at some point and was told of…he told the mayor what he was going to do. Even the mayor said, ‘Let’s sleep on it.’ But his mind was made up.”
“Did the mayor ever express any further opinion about these demotions?” asked McQuary.
“No,” said Ciesielski.
When McQuary asked Ciesielski why he thought Straub made the demotions over his objections, the chief said, “I think he felt it would bolster his image.”
At the time, Straub was criticized both in the department and the community for what some came to call his intimidating, brash and micromanaging style of leadership.
Regarding the decision to have Bisard’s blood drawn at a clinic as opposed to Methodist Hospital, Ciesielski said, “I think any supervisor on the scene would have made that same call.”
IMPD officers were not advised by Marion County Prosecutor Carl Brizzi’s office that state law regarding the location of DUI blood draws had changed several months earlier.
On Aug. 22, 2010, Straub was quoted as rationalizing the demotions because Hicks, Pierce and Conley, “should have reported their information up the chain and kept senior officials above them better informed.”
“Do you believe that statement is true?” McQuary asked.
“No,” Ciesielski responded.
The former chief acknowledged that he sent out a department-wide e-mail that claimed, “These men failed in their leadership, they failed me, the department and the public.”
“It wasn’t written for me,” said Ciesielski, “but there was a lot of input into it.”
“Who provided that input?” asked McQuary.
“The director,” answered Ciesielski, referring again to Straub.
Ciesielski said during his conversations with the soon-to-be-demoted commanders, he wrote a note to himself: “Policy change, not personnel change.”
It was that investigation Straub refused to consider as he made his unilateral decision to demote the three commanders.