Tuesday, June 15, 2004 | 11:04 a.m.
Three Metro Police officers who patrolled the department's southwest region on the graveyard shift used excessive force on suspects and then lied about the incidents during an internal investigation, officials said.
The findings were the result of a probe into the conduct of five officers who were accused of misconduct in connection with 10 separate incidents occurring over the past year.
"It was a very substantial, in-depth investigation" involving interviews of more than 70 people, Deputy Chief Mike Ault, head of Internal Affairs, said.
Officials found that no criminal violations had occurred, but the officers were found to be in violation of departmental policies and may face termination, Ault said.
He refused to release specifics on the cases. More detail will be released after the appeal process has been concluded, he said.
Assistant Sheriff Mike Zagorski, who is in charge of law enforcement operations, which includes overseeing the area commands, became aware of the alleged misconduct earlier this year and filed a complaint with the Internal Affairs Bureau.
Internal Affairs officials have closed six of the 10 cases stemming from the complaint. Four more investigations are ongoing.
The first case relates to T-shirts reading "BDRT," which Ault said had dual meanings, "Baby's Daddy Removal Team" and "Big Dogs Run Together."
Ault said no evidence was found linking the T-shirts to the February 2003 fatal shooting of Orlando Barlow, who was surrendering when he was killed by Officer Brian Hartman.
The T-shirts were created "substantially after that time," Ault said. "In our interviews we never uncovered a connection."
Barlow was babysitting seven children of a woman he had met about a week earlier when he began arguing with her and threatening her with a gun.
Because of the T-shirts, Hartman and Officers Jeremy Krough, James Vargas and Sean Hendricksen were found to have engaged in conduct unbecoming an officer.
Hartman, Krough and Vargas were found to have lied during the investigation, Ault said. Hartman also engaged in disharmony, meaning he failed to cooperate with his co-workers.
The investigation found that Sgt. Joe McGill neglected his duty in connection with the T-shirt case, Ault said.
In a separate case, Vargas was found in violation of the department's policy prohibiting excessive force, lying, putting false information into a a report and disobedience.
Hartman and Krough were found to have used excessive force in two seperate cases, and then both reportedly lied during the investigations. Hendrickson was found to have failed to use proper discretion in the Krough incident.
McGill, in two different cases, was found to have neglected his duty in one case and violated the harmony policy in another case.
The officers joined Metro in 2001. McGill has been with Metro since 1987.
Hartman resigned from the force last month. The others have been on administrative leave since the investigation started earlier this year.
The four remaining cases are expected to be wrapped up within a few weeks, Ault said.
The officers' chain of command will review the findings and determine what, if any, discipline is appropriate. The officers can then appeal the decision. The review and appeal process can take several months.