A North Little Rock police officer arrested in June after a man's arms were broken during a traffic stop months earlier has a history of violent behavior at the department, according to disciplinary documents released to the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette.
Officer Jon Crowder was charged with third-degree battery on June 27, 10 months after he wrenched both of a handcuffed man's arms so high behind the man's back that bones in both elbows broke, dashboard camera video shows.
The city of North Little Rock paid the injured man $30,000 in November before the Pulaski County prosecuting attorney's office requested an affidavit for Crowder's arrest.
"This was a first for us," North Little Rock Police Chief Mike Davis said. "I've never had to deal with this before. ... This case, after it was all said and done, I felt like we had some issues. I went and met with the mayor, chief of staff and city attorney. I said, 'I think we have some issues here. I think we need to try to help this.'"
The incident was the latest in a list of disciplinary infractions and citizens' complaints over the past eight years of Crowder's 17-year tenure as a North Little Rock officer.
In 2011, the department suspended Crowder for three days after he pepper-sprayed a man who was handcuffed in the back of his patrol car, disciplinary records show. Several citizens complained that Crowder "bullied" and threatened residents with arrest, and in the past five years, Crowder was involved in 13 use-of-force incidents.
"This was a very unfortunate incident that happened," Davis said of the latest incident involving the officer. "It's led to a lot of re-examining for us."
While on patrol on Aug. 27 last year, Crowder stopped 44-year-old Kristopher Ryan Lamar near 111 W. Pershing Blvd. for suspected use of a stolen credit card, reports say.
The video shows him handcuffing Lamar's wrists behind him and placing Lamar at the trunk of his car. Crowder then finds a pair of handcuffs in the man's possession and asks him why he has them. When Lamar answered "Because I'm f *g kinky, dude," Crowder reacts by lifting Lamar's arms over Lamar's head, the video shows.
In a hearing Oct. 25 concerning Lamar's arrest, Police Department administrators ruled that Crowder violated three department policies, including lawful, civil and professional conduct, excessive use of force and not displaying competent performance, according to a disciplinary report.
One of Crowder's supervisors said in an opinion sent to Davis that it appeared Crowder had injured Lamar because "he was upset with a verbal response from the suspect."
"Video of the incident shows that after the subject was handcuffed his arms were pulled upward after comments were made to you by the subject," a notice of administrative hearing delivered to Crowder on Oct. 22 said.
Though the notice said the department administrators were considering termination over the altercation, Davis instead mandated that Crowder attend counseling, gave him a 30-day suspension and had the officer sign a last-chance agreement, disciplinary documents said.
The last-chance agreement stipulated that Crowder must admit that he had acted contrary to the department's standard of conduct, give up his right to appeal his suspension and comply with department policies in the future.
The agreement also says Crowder would be on a 24-month warning period in which any violation of department policy would result in his termination without the right of appeal.
In November, the city paid Lamar the $30,000 from the Police Department's professional services funds -- usually used for officer counseling, legal counsel, drug testing, and transcription or interpretation services -- to ensure that he would pursue no legal action and to cover the injured man's medical bills.
"I felt like it's what needed to happen," Davis said. "I thought we had an issue. [I thought] 'Let's deal with the issue now.'"
North Little Rock Assistant City Attorney Michael Mosley promised Lamar on Nov. 8 that he would ask Pulaski County Prosecuting Attorney Larry Jegley to drop possession of drug paraphernalia and theft by receiving charges against Lamar, according to recordings of a conversation between Mosley and Lamar.
Jegley said he never received a call from Mosley, and instead learned from a written document that the city requested that the charges be dropped. Until he learned of the request, Jegley said he was unaware that the arrest had been abnormal.
"The red flags went up when we were asked to can a perfectly good prosecution," Jegley said. "We did not know there was dash camera footage until sometime after we were asked to throw the case against Mr. Lamar."
The case file on Lamar that was sent to the prosecuting attorney's office did not include dash camera footage of the arrest, according to the results of an Arkansas Freedom of Information Act request. Jegley confirmed later that his office did not receive the dashboard camera footage until it requested a "review file" on Nov. 20.
Davis said he was not sure why the dash camera video was not included in the original case file for Lamar's arrest.
The review file contained a summary of facts, witness statements and the dash camera footage. In January and again in March, the prosecuting attorney's office requested additional information, according to email records from the Police Department. Records show the department supplied the records after each request.
On May 15, the prosecuting attorney's office informed Davis that it would be seeking charges against Crowder. The Police Department then began a criminal investigation and turned in an affidavit for Crowder's arrest on June 26, according to a Police Department release.
"There was still some time before it went through," Davis said, noting the month between the request for an affidavit and the affidavit being submitted to the prosecuting attorney's office. "We had a lot going on for us, and this was a first for us. I've never dealt with this before. ... We weren't trying to not do something."
When asked when a Police Department should turn in a criminal investigation file in reference to an officer's actions, Jegley said there is some discretion on the side of the Police Department, but there is also an expectation for police departments to complete such investigations when the officer's actions reach a criminal level.
"There are times when officers have to use physical force for an individual's own safety as well as the safety of the community and fellow officers," Jegley said. "It's the instances where a situation involving a police officer goes beyond what is reasonable [that a criminal investigation should begin]. I submit that most police officers and people who have been police officers long enough to have rank in the department know it when they see it."
Jegley said that in his nearly 30 years in the Pulaski County prosecuting attorney's office, he can count on "one, maybe two hands" the number of times an officer's actions have clearly crossed the line of reasonable use of force.
"It could well be that this particular situation didn't trigger somebody's radar," Jegley said. "Maybe it was viewed differently than the several people up here [in the prosecuting attorney's office] who viewed it and saw a line-crossing."
Crowder was arrested on June 27.
On May 15, the day Jegley's office informed the Police Department that it would be seeking charges, Davis said he placed Crowder on modified leave, meaning he would work only in the office on case files and could not work off-duty. Crowder is still serving in this capacity.
When asked whether a criminal charge would violate Crowder's last-chance agreement, Davis said he would have to talk over the issue with attorneys and his administration.
"Right now, we are waiting to see how the court proceeding goes. Then we'll be coming back together as a group and making decisions on what that means," Davis said. "The attorneys will have to help me through that, but my take is criminally, if something happens, that's a game-changer."
Davis has been one of Crowder's supervisors since Crowder joined the department in 2002. The chief said he does not believe the incident with Lamar was indicative of Crowder's work.
"He will do anything you ask him to do," Davis said. "He's from here, so he has a different attitude about things -- and that's good."
Crowder joined the North Little Rock Police Department in March 2002, according to documents from the Arkansas Commission on Law Enforcement Standards and Training. For the first eight years of his employment, he received no citizen complaints and his work necessitated no disciplinary action.
On July 30, 2010, though, Crowder received his first citizen complaint. A North Little Rock man accused Crowder of using threats of arrest to intimidate him and other family members who were waiting to see his daughter, a domestic abuse victim.
"The conduct of this officer must be dealt with ASAP," the complainant wrote. "It's officers like him that should not have the right to treat citizens that way. He makes it hard on other officers to do their job."
A letter from Danny Bradley, chief of police at the time, to the complainant said Crowder "could have and should have better handled this situation."
"A permanent record of this incident will be placed in Officer Crowder's file; and as Captain Davis explained to you, his future performance will be closely monitored," Bradley's letter said. "This incident is not characteristic of his overall work performance and history with this department. If, in the future, he fails to meet our expectations in dealing with our citizens, he will face more severe sanctions up to and including separation of employment."
Reached for comment Friday, Bradley said such monitoring usually includes notifying an officer's superiors of the complaint, randomly screening an officer's dash camera footage and sending a notification to Professional Standards.
"Officers who are more active often get more complaints," Bradley said. "The things that I always watch for are a commonality of behavior between incidents. There's just a lot of factors that go into making those determinations."
In March 2011, Crowder was suspended after pepper-spraying a man who was handcuffed in the back of his patrol car, according to police documents.
Crowder had pulled a motorcyclist over for speeding, according to an arrest report. After discovering the cyclist had an active warrant, Crowder handcuffed him and attempted to place him in the back of his patrol car. The man refused to put his feet inside the car, and Crowder pepper-sprayed him, the report said.
When the motorcyclist kicked Crowder and ran away, the officer used a Taser to stun him, reports say.
In a notification of administrative hearing delivered to Crowder on June 24, 2011, then-Police Chief Bradley said Crowder had violated at least two department policies.
"Your demeanor and actions aggravated the situation rather than control it," the notification said. "After arresting [the motorcyclist], you administered OC spray on him as he sat handcuffed partially in the back seat of your patrol car. Upon being sprayed with the OC, [the motorcyclist] reacted to the spray by bolting from the car. You then deployed a TASER on him."
On July 5, Bradley suspended Crowder for three days, according to the file.
Davis, who was then a captain and one of Crowder's supervisors, ordered Crowder to attend counseling.
"I have been your supervisor for approximately nine years and have found your work performance to be above average in the area of patrol enforcement duties," Davis wrote. "However, I have had reason to be concerned about the following work performance issue: 1) Conflict resolution when dealing with the public 2) Effective communication when dealing with the public."
In 2015, a 22-year-old woman filed a complaint with the department that Crowder refused to make a report when her truck was vandalized, telling her that the Police Department is "not an insurance company."
The complaint was forwarded to a lieutenant "for follow-up [for] rude behavior and refusal to take a report," the complaint form said. Whether the department took any further action was not noted.
Between 2011 and 2019, Crowder was involved in 13 use-of-force incidents, or altercations wherein a police officer deploys physical force, a Taser or another weapon while on duty.
When asked if the number of incidents in Crowder's administrative file was excessive, Davis said it's difficult to judge officers' histories without considering the context of their work.
"It depends," Davis said. "A lot of times you can go a year without anything happening, and other times you can go one week -- as we've experienced -- and a lot can happen. It depends on the calls that you get, what shift you're on. You have to look at that."
Crowder's most recent use of force was on Jan. 1 of this year when he used a Taser to stun a man who would not remove his hands from his waistband while he lay face-down on the ground during an arrest, a police report said. Medics at the Pulaski County jail refused to book the man into the lockup, saying he needed to be sent to a hospital.
Medical professionals at Baptist Health Medical Center North Little Rock said the man needed to be under observation for at least 24 hours, reports say.
The department has an automated tracker for use-of-force incidents and other "triggers," Davis said. If an officer is involved in more than three trigger incidents in six months, his supervisors are notified.
"Then we pull back and look again at those to see if something is out there -- a training issue, something else -- that explains why," Davis said. "Is it just the position the officer's been put in or is there something else?"
By this matrix, Crowder's supervisors would have received a notification of his frequency of use-of-force incidents in 2015 and 2017.
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