After the brawl was over:
A grand jury investigating an incident in which off-duty Indianapolis police officers allegedly harassed women and beat two men during a drunken celebration downtown indicted four of the officers on Oct. 18.
The Aug. 27 incident, which has become known locally as the “policemen’s brawl,” prompted the resignation of Police Chief Donald Christ, who had attended a minor-league baseball game with the group earlier that evening. Christ did not accompany officers to the bar they visited after the game, but said on Sept. 12 that he had to step down “in the best interest of the city.”
Mayor Stephen Goldsmith reportedly urged Christ to stay on, but was forced to asked for the Chief’s resignation when it was revealed that he attended another baseball game with some of the implicated officers two days after the incident.
As many as 17 officers, members of the emergency Mobile Field Force, were initially implicated in the attack, which was witnessed by as many as 50 witnesses, both black and white. Many of the witnesses said some of the officers involved were obviously drunk.
The indicted officers, all of whom are white, are: Officer Paul Tutsie, charged with battery, perjury, criminal mischief and disorderly conduct; Officer Jason Hansman, charged with pointing a firearm, disorderly conduct and battery; Officer Edward Brickley Jr., charged with disorderly conduct, battery and public intoxication, and Officer Gregory Gehring, who was charged with disorderly conduct and battery.
The grand jury also indicted Jeff Gordon, the black man who allegedly scuffled with and then was beaten by the officers, on charges of battery and disorderly conduct.
Marion County Prosecutor Scott Newman said Gordon was indicted because he continued to fight with officers after they ordered him to leave the scene. Officers also allegedly beat Richard Craig, a white friend of Gordon’s who came to his aid as he was being pummeled by police.
Newman said he would ask the court to appoint a special prosecutor in the case of another officer who is married to a deputy prosecutor.
Acting Police Chief Robert Allen immediately suspended Tutsie and Hansman without pay, since the charges against them include felonies, and said he will press for them to be fired.
John Kautzman, an attorney for the local Fraternal Order of Police lodge, said the group was pleased that 13 officers were exonerated. “As to the four other police officers indicted,” he said, “we are very disappointed. We still believe that they did not commit criminal misconduct on that evening.”
Kautzman said FOP members also were “very, very disappointed that only one of the two civilians involved was indicted because we feel they were heavily involved.” He added he does not believe the officers used sexual or racial epithets as they headed downtown, saying “we believe a situation developed that they were required to deal with in the best way they knew how.”
Gordon, on the other, lashed out at the grand jury’s action, particularly his own indictment. “I’m not surprised that all 17 of the officers were not held accountable,” he said. “But I’m very surprised that they see me as being a criminal in this case.”
The incident, the latest of several this year in which Indianapolis police officers have been accused of criminal misconduct, prompted some minority leaders to charge that an entrenched “good old boy” network protects white officers from being held accountable for their actions. “The incident downtown is a manifestation of the serious lack of discipline and accountability in our police department,” said Roderick Bohannon, president of the NAACP’s Indianapolis chapter.
In related developments, Mayor Goldsmith, himself a former Marion County prosecutor, has convened a panel of prominent citizens to recommend ways to improve the way the Police Department processes and reviews citizen complaints. The committee is also charged with lobbying police officials and members of the City-County Council to implement any recommendations they devise.
Goldsmith also invited Charleston, S.C., Police Chief Reuben Greenberg to come to Indianapolis to assess the agency’s internal disciplinary process. Greenberg, a nationally noted police official, “has a reputation for firm, but fair, discipline of officers, as well as strong support of officers in their duty to protect the community from lawbreakers,” Goldsmith said.
Prior to Greenberg’s visit, Goldsmith added, the Police Executive Research Forum was expected to conduct an in-depth analysis of IPD regulations to assist Greenberg in his evaluation. “Our purpose in asking Chief Greenberg to undertake this review is to ensure that IPD has a fair and firm disciplinary process,” the Mayor said.