BLOOMINGTON, Ind. — One week after learning that the police chief with the Indiana University Police Department was let go from her position, Indiana University released a statement that said the former police chief was incorrect in her assessment that two IUPD officers committed no wrongdoing during the arrest of a graduate student stemming from a parking fine in September 2022.
In the statement, released on Wednesday, the university said the individuals from IUPD who were involved in the incident “received disciplinary action” in relation to the incident, which led to a federal lawsuit in the United States District Court for the Southern District of Indiana Indianapolis division.
The university reported on Sept. 8 that Jill Lees was let go from her position as the police chief last week. At the time, Brad Seifers was listed as the interim division chief and the university did not provide further comment.
According to previous reports, a graduate student with the university filed a lawsuit earlier this year against the university and two IUPD officers after an incident surrounding a parking fee. According to documents filed on Sept. 5 in Indianapolis federal court, the parties in the lawsuit reached a settlement in the matter.
The complaint said the plaintiff parked in a lot near the university’s Student Recreational Sports Center to work out, left the center and drove towards the pay booth. The complaint read the student only had cash to pay for parking but the attendant would only allow card payments. The attendant said he could charge the student’s bursar bill instead, with a $10 fee attached to it.
The complaint said the attendant opened the gate so the student could pull out of the way of the traffic flow. The student drove home, assuming the bill would be charged. Officials said the attendant, and another university employee, called the police.
Two officers showed up at the student’s home. The complaint said the student could not hear the two officers, because he was in the shower. The two officers went into their cars to leave, but one of the officers saw an individual who “looked like” the student exit the building. The officers asked the student for his name, as well as his birthday, to make sure they were talking to the correct student.
In the conversation, officers asked the student if they knew what this was about, in which he replied that he did not. The officers asked the student to sit on the curb, but the student said he “would continue to talk to (them) but that he did not think he needed to sit down on the curb.”
The complaint said that the officers were “becoming more and more angry.” After the student asked the officers why they were there, the complaint said that one of the officers approached the student and “grabbed and twisted his arm.”
The officers then knocked the student “off balance and into a car and put handcuffs on him.” The student was then taken to jail. The complaint said the student was initially charged criminally but not with anything related to the parking fee. The student’s criminal charges were later dismissed.
The lawsuit included claims of unreasonable search and seizure, excessive force, false arrest, due process violation, battery, assault and negligence against the officers, the university and the university’s board of regents.
How did the university respond?
According to the university statement, an initial and standard department review of the arrest was conducted in October 2022 by Lees. That initial review concluded “no wrongdoing had occurred and no subsequent action was undertaken.”
Once the university was made aware of the lawsuit, officials said in the statement the university “conducted a thorough evaluation of all associated behaviors, processes, and procedures.” A second review of the incident determined that Lees did not follow mandatory review protocols during the initial review and that IUPD policies were violated during the incident.
Officials with the university said the following actions have been taken in response to the incident:
- All responsible parties within IUPD have received disciplinary action;
- IU has engaged an external consultant to conduct a review of the police department in Bloomington and on every IU campus to assess policies, procedures, practices, cultural norms and leadership;
- Enhanced training on fair and impartial policing, procedural compliance and field operations;
- IU is implementing operational changes to university processes such as parking enforcement, to ensure reasonable responses in the future.
“IU will maintain an open dialogue and inform of any additional steps we may take to ensure that IUPD operates at the highest ethical standards aligned with IU’s core values,” the statement read. “We are deeply saddened by the behavior and actions that took place and offer our sincere apology to the individual and to our community. Indiana University holds our staff, faculty, and leadership to the highest standards of ethical conduct and integrity, including IUPD.”
On Sept. 7, the court ordered that because the settlement was reached, all pending motions “are all denied as moot” and other previously ordered dates in the case “are vacated.” By early October, the legal teams involved in the case are expected to file a motion to dismiss the case and submit a dismissal order for the case.
FOX59/CBS4 reached out to the attorney for the student in this matter. The attorney said that they do not have any comment at this time.
Accompanying the IU statement, the university provided a nine-hour compilation of footage from the date the incident occurred. The video can be found here.