Lawyers for former LPD officers release statement on reinstatement decision by arbitrators
LAWTON, Okla. (KSWO) - After city officials released a statement earlier this week on the decision by two separate arbitrators that former LPD officers Robert Hinkle and Nathan Ronan should be reinstated, we have now also heard from the lawyers of the two officers.
Gary James, the attorney for Hinkle and Ronan in their ongoing manslaughter trial, and James Hunt, the attorney for the police union which represented the pair during their arbitrations hearings, released a joint statement on Friday digging deeper into the decision which has led to the pair being ordered to be reinstated to the Lawton Police Department.
Earlier this week, City of Lawton officials released a statement calling the ruling “disappointing” and saying they were continuing to look into their options to fight the ruling.
Below is the full statement by the former officer’s lawyers:
Separate Arbitrators mutually selected by the City of Lawton and the Lawton Police Union (IUPA Local 24) ordered the respective reinstatements of Lawton police officers Robert Hinkle and Nathan Ronan.
The City terminated Hinkle and Ronan’s employment on January 7, 2022 following the shooting of Quadry Sanders on December 5, 2021. Both arbitrators issued their written decisions on May 30th , 2023.
The decisions followed arbitration hearings that were held November 8, 9, 10, 2022 for Officer Hinkle and December 7, 8, 9, 2022 for Officer Ronan. The officers’ cases were tried separately and independently.
In both arbitration hearings, numerous witnesses testified, exhibits were submitted and body worn camera videos extensively reviewed. Both arbitrators found that the City had not established that the police officers used excessive or unreasonable force.
The arbitrator assigned to Sergeant Ronan’s case wrote in part, “In the present case, both Hinkle and Ronan believed that deadly force was necessary to deal with the threat that Sanders posed to their safety. Therefore, they moved and acted quickly because they believed that delay would endanger their lives. Officers cannot be mind readers and must resolve ambiguities immediately.” The arbitrator also wrote, “I find that it was reasonable for Ronan to believe that Sanders was shooting at Hinkle. I further find that based on this circumstance it was reasonable for Ronan to believe that deadly force was necessary to protect himself and Hinkle from Sanders.”
The arbitrator assigned to Officer Hinkle’s case wrote in part, “In evaluating an excessive force or improper use of deadly force case, under federal law and Oklahoma law, the decision makers must review the totality of circumstances from the perspective of the accused officer – in this case from Hinkle’s perspective. The Department cannot second guess or use 20/20 hindsight; it must consider that confrontations such as these are tense and change rapidly, requiring split second decisions based on what the officer knows and perceives as the situation develops.”
The arbitrator further found that Mr. Sanders was not cooperating with the police negotiator or complying with Officer Hinkle’s commands. Also, the arbitrator found that Officer Hinkle acted consistently with the training he had received from the Lawton Police Department.
The arbitrator found that Hinkle reasonably believed that Sanders was attempting to reach for a weapon.
City officials have stated that the officers remain criminally charged by the Comanche County District Attorney’s Officer for the deadly shooting. However, the criminal charges stem from the same incident both arbitrators extensively reviewed. Oklahoma law does not permit convictions of police officers who use deadly force in the performance of their duty unless it is proved that the use of force was excessive as defined by Oklahoma statute.
Two separate arbitrators, working independent of each other, have firmly determined that neither of the officers used excessive force. And the City was only required to prove the force was excessive by a standard less rigid than that required for a criminal conviction.
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