APD officers fired after previously cleared of excessive force charges

Austin
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Austin Police Officers Robert Pfaff and Donald Petraitis were found not guilty on excessive force charges in December 2018. But, in a unanimous vote Oct. 3, 2019, the city council agreed to pay the victim in the case $75,000 to settle a civil rights lawsuit against the city and the officers.

AUSTIN (KXAN) — Austin Police Department announced Monday that the two officers, who were cleared of charges of using excessive force in December, have been fired. 

In Demember, then APD officers Robert Pfaff and Donald Petraitis were on trial for allegations that they used excessive force in a February incident when they tasered Quentin Perkins, a witness to a shooting they were responding to. The men were cleared of all five charges, including assault, perjury and tampering with government records. 

In spite of this, APD ultimately decided that the officers’ use of a taser was “inappropriate, unecessary, objectively unreasonable and a violation of department policy.”

APD indicates that the use of a taser is to be used only in instances of resistance, and since Perkins had been on his knees with both hands in the air above his head with no weapon visible, he did not pose a significant threat to the officers. Video evidence of the incident contradicted the officers’ statements, which claimed that Perkins had been on his feet and about to run away.

According to APD, the men’s statements of the events contained multiple parts that could be proven false, including Pfaff’s claim that he could not explain his intent to deploy his taser — as APD requires — because there hadn’t been enough time. APD says: “Officer Pfaf contends he did not have time to issue that warning, a claim that is belied by the fact that he had time to transition to that weapon and time to issue other verbal commands.”

The department believes the men to be guilty of several instances of dishonesty. 

In a statement released Monday, the attornies for both men commented: 

“We are deeply disappointed in the Austin Police Department command staff for their decision to indefinitely suspend Officers Petraitis and Pfaff. We were hopeful that lessons had been learned from the evidence we presented in the criminal trial, particularly the scientific evidence regarding human perception from a tenured UT psychology professor, as well as the evidence we elicited from APD’s own training academy officers who instructed Officers Petraitis and Pfaff on Taser use. The jury certainly became educated and promptly issued nine acquittals, and this following the DA’s dismissal of two indictments mid-trial. Instead, it appears APD command staff is either unable or unwilling to admit the series of mistakes that were made in its investigation of these officers. While we would have strongly preferred that APD do the right thing and reinstate these officers today, we will see to it that this occurs in the near future after presenting the same evidence to an arbitrator.” 

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