Board: Tucson police actions 'justified' in NCAA incident

2014-07-02T18:38:00Z 2014-07-03T09:25:22Z Board: Tucson police actions 'justified' in NCAA incidentArizona Daily Star Arizona Daily Star
July 02, 2014 6:38 pm  • 

Tucson police officers actions were justified in how they dealt with a large crowd following the UA men's basketball team's loss in the NCAA Championship Tournament, according to a board of inquiry.

However, the board did say the actions of one officer during the incident were inappropriate and needed to be investigated separately. That was in reference to Sgt. Joel Mann, who was seen in a video pushing a woman to the ground. The video was widely distributed on social media sites following the incident.

The police department on Wednesday released the board's report and findings into how officers handled a raucous crowd that had gathered on University Boulevard and Tyndall Avenue following the Wildcats' loss in the Elite 8 round of the tournament March 29.

"Overall, this incident was handled appropriately, insofar as the crowd was dispersed in a fairly short time frame with no significant injury or property damage," the report said. "The isolated issues involving use of force are being dealt with appropriately ... and should not cast a shadow on the general success of the response."

Tucson Police Chief Roberto Villaseñor convened the board following the incident, which resulted in 15 arrests, mostly UA students, and officers using nonlethal ammunition against the crowd.

In a letter to city officials, Villaseñor said the board's report is a "thorough, informed critique of the event."

"Despite excessive coverage by the media concerning a couple of incidents within the event, the overall outcome was that there were minimal injuries and damage that occurred during this highly volatile situation," he wrote.

The board did say Mann's use of force on three individuals during two incidents were inappropriate and warrant a separate investigation by police. The police department has asked the Arizona Department of Public Safety to conduct an investigation into Mann's actions. The board said an internal affairs investigation into Mann has also been conducted. The police department has not released the findings of that investigation.

Villaseñor said in his letter that "the impact of social media and the viral effect of the video concerning Sgt. Mann cannot be ignored."

"I take responsibility for holding ourselves accountable for those actions and putting in place the necessary discipline, training and supervision to ensure they are not repeated,"he wrote.

The board was comprised of: Deputy Chief Sharon Allen, Assistant Chief John Leavitt; Capt. Greg Roberts, Sgt. Colin King, Officer Martin Escobar, assistant city attorneys Julianne Hughes, Lisa Judge and Michael Silva; and independent police auditor Liana Perez.

In its report, the board said it interviewed numerous police officers, read hundreds of pages of reports, interviews transcripts and operational plans as well as watched more than a hundred hours of video footage of the incident as part of its review. Many of the officers involved in crowd control that night were equipped with body cameras. The board's report listed 27 police commanders and officers who it interviewed as well as two dispatchers.

The board did make numerous recommendations for the department concerning training, equipment, finances and supervision in preparing for future crowd-control incidents.

Copyright 2014 Arizona Daily Star. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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