Falmouth Chief of Police is investing in officer under fire from WCPO I-Team report
WCPO I-Team has been investigating Northern Kentucky law enforcement agencies throughout Northern Kentucky and have published two stories. One in October that implied the Newport Police Department had been involved in numerous excessive force arrests specifically with shots to individuals head. One arrest highlighted was of Hugo Aguilar on May 7, 2017.
On Thursday, March 22, they released a second, more-detailed report of the arrest based upon body camera video they had obtained from Nick Summe who is the defense attorney for Daniel Rodriguez a co-defendant in the case.
Newly hired Falmouth Police officer Steven Linville was part of the three-member arresting team in the case and prominently mentioned.
While Falmouth Chief of Police Shannon Clem indicated they knew about the incident and investigation before hiring Linville, their background check indicated it was more of a Newport department issue than it was a personal issue of Linville’s.
“His department failed him in his training,” Chief Clem stated emphatically.
It’s a point that Mayor Ron Stinson echoed. “Everybody that we talked to said it is not the person but the department. It’s the way they go on a call.”
A mindset that Chief Clem does not accept for his staff. “No way in hell, I would allow that stuff to happen. No officer is going to do that.”
Each officer hired by Falmouth is on a six-month probation period and can be let go out at anytime. An action that both the mayor and police chief indicated they have no qualms of taking if any officer's action during the probationary period would warrant it.
According to Newport’s use of force report obtained by the I-Team, Linville ”delivered five to six knee strikes to (Angular’s) right shoulder” and “stated three to four of those strikes slipped and struck Angular on the right side of his face as he thrashed around and continue to resist.”
The body camera shows the blows were delivered in less than 10 seconds and was used because they “were in fear” that the suspect might “be going for a weapon” with the hadn that he refused to surrender to them.
Since 2016, Linville was named in a total of eight incidents in which he struck people with head shots.
This is not the view of Officer Linville that Falmouth received from those that he had worked with in Northern Kentucky.
First hired by Boone County Sheriff Department, Chief Clem indicated he had reached out to an experienced deputy sheriff who he knew that worked for Boone County.
“They said he would be a great hire for our department,” said Clem. He further indicated that he had asked about the scoop on the Newport situation and was told, “they have their own way of doing things.” When Linville was with Boone County, they had no issues or problems with him.
“We told him this is the way we run things and it will not be tolerated here,” said Clem who has watched the body camera videos from Linville’s and other officer's shifts in Falmouth. As the supervisor, Sergeant John Riley routinely reviews the body camera video from all of the officers
“He has been calm, cool and collected in handling situations,” said Clem.
"He has handled every situation with the proper decorum that was needed to handle the situation," Assistant Chief Giberson said about Linville. He added that he does not expect any issues with him. "I think he will turn out to be Newport's loss and our gain.
The usage of body cameras is another area that raised questions in the I-Team report.
The video indicates that four minutes after the incident, Sergeant Brandon Haffey shows Officer Linville walkiing up to Haffey and asking, “Are you off?” The two officers remained silent as Haffey reached up and turned off his body camera.
Clem who was a proponent of body cameras for Falmouth and pushed for it indicated that their policy is that when an officer rolls up on a scene, the camera should be turned on.
“When you are driving away from the scene, then you turn it off. I tell the officers that today, you are being videod and we had better be videoing too. I’m a firm believer in these cameras,” he said.
After each shift, an officers body camera is turned in and uploaded. Both Chief Clem and Assistant Chief Bill Giberson review the body camera video for the happenings of an officer’s shift as well as how they handled it.
In one incident, Officer Linville responded to an upset individual in Falmouth. According to Mayor Stinson, the individual was irate and screaming but Linville was nothing but professional.
During the interview, Chief Clem asked Linville why he wanted to be a police officer. He answered, “I want to help people.”
Clem emphasized, “His heart is there.”
To that extent, Linville is paired with new Falmouth Police Officer Brody Schmeing who is a verbal judo instructor. He will be able to mentor and train Linville in ways to verbally deescalate situations.
Its what the Falmouth Police leadership heard from Boone County in their recommendation to hire Linville. Train him the right way and surround him with officers the way you want your department ran.
Clem indicated he has seen no signs of aggression and told Linville, “Keep up the same good work you are doing now and you are perfectly fine.”
He is excited about Linville teaming with the other staff to help combat the drug problem in Falmouth and clean up the streets. It harkens back to that answer in the interview, "to help people."
The Newport police office concluded the use of force was justified against Anguliar. A justification that fits into a normal method of operations accoring to the I-Team report. Records indicate that since 2016, Newport officers delivered facial blows 11 times but the officers were never criticized in supervisory reviews.
The lack of criticism from immediate supervisors stands in contrast to what Newport Chief of Police Tom Collins told WCPO’s I-Team about head shots. “It’s never appropriate. It’s a no strike zone.”
According to the department's investigation of records, Newport officers are three times more likely than officers of other departments to aim for the head.
Linville resigned from the Newport Police Department in January.
“It’s a whole different world up there,” said Mayor Stinson. “He told us that he was getting tired of it.”