Mayor: Internal investigation identifies failures in Bisard crash
Indianapolis - Saying the public's trust has been shaken and calling one of their own officers "reckless," city leaders released an-depth and scathing report concerning a deadly crash involving an IMPD officer.
On August 6th, Officer David Bisard slammed into two motorcycles with his lights and sirens on, killing one biker, Eric Wells, and seriously injuring two others, Mary Mills and Kurt Weekly.
Bisard is now charged with reckless homicide. The internal investigation clearly identifies problems in the way the case was handled.
For the first time, it was learned that Officer Bisard refused to participate in the investigation. The investigation also revealed that Officer Bisard was typing personal messages on his computer just before the crash happened. Another key point: the scene was treated as a crash scene, not a crime scene, which led to lost evidence in the case. Investigators revealed that no one at the scene of the crash observed any impairment of Officer Bisard despite the fact that a blood test later showed him legally drunk. The police chief also said that no one was clearly in charge of the crash scene.
While Indianapolis Metro Police call their report thorough, the report identifies serious lapses in procedure in the crucial hours following the crash.
Sixty-seven people were interviewed in IMPD's report, including officers and witnesses to the crash. Officer David Bisard drove his police cruiser into three motorcyclists, killing Eric Wells and critically injuring Kurt Weekly and Mary Mills. However, Officer Bisard was not among those interviewed for the report. Police say he refused to cooperate with the investigation.
Mayor Greg Ballard, Public Safety Director Frank Straub, IMPD Chief Paul Ciesielski and Deputy Chief Valerie Cunningham, who was in charge of the investigation, spoke to the media.
Mayor Ballard called the Bisard crash "an unspeakable tragedy" that was "compounded by procedural violations and compromised evidence."
Public Safety Director Frank Straub said Officer Bisard responded to a call he was not dispatched to, ran lights and sirens when it was not necessary, and did so while intoxicated, as indicated by blood tests. However, Straub also said none of the 67 people interviewed indicated that Bisard showed any signs of impairment or intoxication.
Bisard still faces reckless homicide charges, but prosecutors dropped DUI charges because of where the blood sample was drawn.
Bisard found in violation of several department policies
Cunningham said the investigation found that Bisard was typing, sending and receiving messages not related to police work just before crashing into motorcyclists. Another key finding in the report was that Commander John Conley allowed Bisard to remove personal items, including a black bag, from his police cruiser unsupervised. Cunningham said that resulted in the loss of crucial evidence. Conley and two other IMPD supervisors at the scene have since been demoted.
Cunningham also said that while the investigation found that Bisard took his car to be serviced that morning, Bisard did not cooperate with investigators and refused to explain his actions between about 9:00 am and shortly after 11:00 am, when he volunteered to respond to a call on an arrest warrant.
Cunningham addressed concerns that the blood samples taken from Bisard following the crash had somehow been mixed up. In a detailed explanation, Cunningham talked about the tests that determined Bisard's blood alcohol content was .19. She also said follow-up was done to determine that blood samples taken from other suspects matched arrest reports. She said Bisard's blood sample was tested four times and each time yielded the same result.
Investigators concluded that the testing was proper and that Bisard was intoxicated.
"The determination of the Marion County Crime Lab and from all investigators from the Professional Standards Division was that the blood alcohol from David Bisard was .19 and that is a fact. He violated the substance abuse policy of the department for being intoxicated while on duty. He violated the police vehicle operation policy for running under emergency conditions when it was not warranted. He violated the use of communication devices by sending non-business-related messages. And by preponderance of the evidence which is a requirement in administrative investigations, he violated all criminal charges that were initially filed including the alcohol charges."
Chain of command
The report also uncovered a confused chain of command at the crash scene. Although IMPD Chief Ciesielski said his top two commanders were at the scene, no one took charge to the extent that the magnitude of the incident required.
The report deemed the fatal crash preventable, based on a statement from Bisard who told investigators he looked down, looked back up, saw the motorcyclists, hit the brakes but was unable to swerve or stop before striking them.
Because the wreck was handled as a crash scene and not a crime scene, Cunningham said the report found that resulted in the loss of "valuable evidence that day."
"The gravity and complexity of the situation was not realized on the scene by supervision and therefore critical and valuable evidence was lost that we cannot recover," she said. But she added that because that evidence was lost, "it does not mean crash investigation was not well done."
Cunningham said the decision to send Bisard to an occupational health center and not a hospital for the blood draw was the result of conflicting policies, and added that it was an issue that needed to be addressed by IMPD. One policy states officers with minor injuries should be taken to an occupational health center for blood tests, but another states that injured officers will be taken to Methodist Hospital.