Bisard Report: Poor Management At Scene Doomed Investigation

Public Safety Leaders Release An Internal Investigation

Poor crash scene management and conflicting policies within the Indianapolis Metropolitan Police Department led to the botched investigation into the fatal crash involving Officer David Bisard, according to an internal affairs investigation.

Mayor Greg Ballard, Public Safety Director Frank Straub and Police Chief Paul Ciesielski held a news conference Wednesday afternoon to release details of the 47-page report by the department's Professional Standards Division, headed by Deputy Chief Valerie Cunningham.

More: Read Full Report

Cunningham outlined the events of Aug. 6, when police said Bisard was drunk on duty when he plowed into a group of motorcyclists stopped at a red light, killing one and severely injuring two others.

She said investigators found that Bisard marked on duty that morning, but was unaccounted for more than two hours before he voluntarily responded to help serve a warrant.

Cunningham said Bisard was operating with lights and sirens running, in violation of department policy, and was also sending and receiving messages not related to police business on laptop in his vehicle, also a violation of policy.

According to a statement Bisard made on the scene, he said he looked down, looked back up and hit his brakes but was unable to stop before hitting the motorcyclists, police said.

"This crash was preventable," Cunningham said.

The issue of Bisard's blood draw, the handling of which later led to alcohol-related charges being dropped against Bisard, was also addressed by investigators.

Cunningham said investigators determined that conflicting policies within IMPD led to Bisard being taken to an occupational clinic, rather than a hospital, as dictated by law.

David Bisard

"The decision to send him to Methodist Occupational Health Center was not based on anything other than conflicting policies, which we as an agency have to clarify in the future as we move forward," she said.

The draw showed Bisard registered a blood alcohol content of 0.19 two hours after the crash and was tested several times to ensure a correct reading, police said.

Public safety leaders reiterated that no one at the crash scene, including fellow officers, civilian witnesses and medical personnel said they had any indication that Bisard was intoxicated at the scene of the crash.

The report also found that the handling of the scene as a crash scene, instead of a crime scene, resulted in the loss of valuable evidence related to the crash.

Bisard was allowed to collect personal items from the crash vehicle without supervision and, despite the presence of two police executive staff members, no one seemed to be truly in charge of the investigation at the scene, police officials said.

"At an incident of this magnitude, someone has to be in charge. There was no one in charge," Ciesielski said.

The chief said he trusted his command staff to handle the scene. Lt. Darryl Pierce, a former assistant chief, Lt. John Conley, a former commander, and Lt. Ron Hicks, former deputy chief of operations, were demoted in the aftermath of the crash.

The Fraternal Order of Police union defended the officers' handling of the crash scene.

"In order to be able to secure evidence, you have to believe that a physical evidence or a statement is in fact evidence to a crime. So, in order to do that, you have to develop probable cause that a crime has actually been committed," said Aaron Sullivan with the FOP. "I didn't hear anything in today's press conference that talked about probable cause."

Bisard's attorney, John Kautzman, echoed the same sentiment, saying it was unclear what "critical evidence" investigators are referring to.

"I don't know of any potentially serious evidence that was lost at the scene at all," he said. "It was treated like a crash investigation because that's what it was. There was no probable cause to believe that a crime had been committed."

Ballard said the findings of the investigation demonstrate that IMPD is in need of "serious and fundamental reform."

He and Straub announced a series of changes within the department in September, including requiring officers to submit to a breath test whenever they're involved in a crash.

Officers are no longer allowed to transport alcohol in their police vehicles, even when off duty, and are not permitted to drink within eight hours of being on duty.

"There are some things that need to be done There are some reforms that must occur," Ballard said. "A lot of it is in the (police) academy, a lot of it is in recruiting and promotion policies and that sort of thing, and just really changing a lot of the policies and procedures."

Mary Mills' attorney, Mark Ladendorf, said he believes Ballard is trying to to make real change within the department. He said the next step is to fully compensate the victims.

"There an admission of fault. There's an admission that the department failed. There's an admission of egregious conduct on the part of Officer Bisard," he said. "It's time for the city to step up. It's time to bring some closure to the people who've been affected for the rest of their lives as a result of this incident."

Cunningham said Bisard declined to be interviewed as part of the internal investigation. She said he was found to have violated the department's emergency vehicle policy and substance abuse policy, and that will be charged internally with insubordination for refusing to cooperate in the investigation.

He has been recommended for termination.

The findings of an FBI report into the investigation has been forwarded to the U.S. Department of Justice. It's unclear if those findings will ever be made public.

Councilors Weigh In On Report

A special City-County Council commission met Wednesday night to discuss the findings.

The law enforcement study commission was formed by the council to look into recent incidents involving the police department and its policies and procedures.

Straub, Ciesielski and Cunningham all testified before the commission.

"The reform process has begun," Straub told the commission. "We will work tirelessly with the community and council until trust and confidence is restored."

Councilors also let their opinions on the case be heard.

"The public is outraged," said Republican Councilor Ryan Vaughn. "If you're not outraged by this, you're not compassionate."

"I think if it had been an average citizen driving the car, it would have been investigated differently from the very beginning," said Councilor Angela Mansfield, a Democrat.

More Information: Full IMPD Report On David Bisard Crash