Auditors draw different conclusions on Azana spa shooter case
Brown Deer police both vindicated and criticized
Brown Deer — Two separate reports come to very different conclusions on the interactions between Brown Deer police, Zina Haughton, and her estranged husband, Radcliffe, now infamous for gunning down Zina, two of her co-workers, and injuring three others before committing suicide.
By and large, auditor Robert C. Willis, whom Brown Deer hired in the wake of public outcry over the October 2012 Azana Spa shooting, concluded that Brown Deer police acted appropriately while dealing with the Haughtons, given the circumstances.
"BDPD and its officers acted professionally, enforced all laws and acted reasonably and appropriately in any and all dealings with the Haughtons," Willis wrote. "The BDPD has adequate training and an exemplary policy on how to respond to domestic abuse calls."
Domestic violence experts Judith Munaker and Linda Besser, consulted to review Willis' findings, tell a different story. Their report, attached as an appendix to the end of Willis' audit, repeatedly takes Brown Deer police to task for a lack of follow-ups, and includes a list of mistakes ranging from witness interviewing, evidence gathering and a lack of information sharing with Brookfield police.
More training needed
While the two reports disagreed over Brown Deer police's actions throughout 11 incidents between 2001 and 2012 — in total there were 27 contacts between Brown Deer police and the Haughtons, though the majority did not relate to domestic violence — both emphasized the need for more training.
Brown Deer Public Information Officer Lisa Kumbier said Chief Steven Rinzel, two captains and another lieutenant attended a domestic violence training seminar in April. Kumbier said the department will continue to train officers at an upcoming May session, if and when scheduling allows.
"We're doing what we can to try to send as many people as we can," Kumbier said. "With a smaller department, we're limited."
Overall, added Kumbier, the department will need to review the numerous recommendations from both reports before deciding what to do.
"This is going to take some time," Kumbier said, "and we're going to have to discuss it as a staff and determine what and how and when we should implement those (recommendations)."
Village Manager Michael Hall said the cost of the Willis' audit will be covered by the village's liability insurance.
Chief Rinzel was unavailable for comment Wednesday morning.
Differences of opinion
According to professional summaries within the report, Munaker is a retired domestic abuse prosecutor and domestic abuse trainer and consultant with the state Office of Justice Assistance. Besser is a retired detective and sensitive crimes investigation consultant with the state Justice Department.
Willis has served as a patrol officer, SWAT team member, and in a number of training positions. He is currently a part-time patrol officer in the town of Merton, is a Deputy Sheriff in Brown County, and works as a full-time instructor and trainer at the Northeast Wisconsin Technical College Tactical Training Complex.
In a May 7 story, the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel reported that Willis has a history of siding with police in controversial cases. In a 2008 federal court deposition, he was reported as saying that he sides with police departments about 90 percent of the time as an expert on police brutality cases.
Underlying the major discrepancy between overall conclusions, the major sticking points between Willis and the domestic violence experts occur over four incidents.
In June 2003, Zina Haughton came to the Brown Deer police lobby to report physical abuse by Radcliffe. After Zina partially filled out a domestic abuse victim worksheet, and Brown Deer police interviewed Radcliffe, they were unable to determine a "predominant aggressor" and as a result Radcliffe wasn't arrested.
Willis concluded that Brown Deer police had acted reasonably, and that specialized training on sensitive crimes and domestic abuse was not yet a part of Wisconsin police academies. The experts criticize Brown Deer police for failing to go back to the Haughton home to corroborate either Zina or Radcliffe's story and for a failure to collect evidence. They concluded Brown Deer police should have done more, and that the situation should have prompted a mandatory arrest of Radcliffe.
"The officer told her that the law required her to complete a domestic abuse worksheet — not true," wrote the experts. "There appears to be a rush to complete paperwork without time committed to interview."
Zina was living in an apartment in December 2006 when she reported someone tried to break in while she was away. Willis concluded that domestic abuse "was not a concern" in the incident. The experts, on the other hand, raised a number of questions.
"Zina Haughton said she keeps chair wedged in the door because she is 'paranoid,'" they wrote. "No follow-up question was asked. ... (Radcliffe) is interviewed on the phone at which time he denies he tried to break in. He is not questioned in person; no one compares the shoes or shoe-size, nor is he asked about where he was when the crime was committed. There is no follow-up."
In January 2011, Zina and Radcliffe were again living together when police responded to a call for assistance, finding Zina outside with her clothes strewn across the front yard and tomato juice poured over her car. They attempted to arrest Radcliffe, though he refused to leave the house, at one time pointing a "long barreled black object" out of a window. After an hour and a half, police left without making an arrest. Radcliffe was later charged with disorderly conduct, though the case was dismissed.
Willis didn't comment on the incident, while the experts criticized the department for failing to investigate and document evidence.
On Oct. 2, 2012, about three weeks before the Azana Spa shooting, Brown Deer police found Zina at a gas station after she accidentally called 911 instead of 411. She said Radcliffe had taken her phone and was going to search it for evidence of infidelity. Her makeup was running, she had been crying, was wearing a torn shirt and no shoes, and was apparently intoxicated. She had swelling and bruises on the left side of her face, though she insisted Radcliffe was not the cause. Officers tried unsuccessfully to contact Radcliffe at their home. Later testimony from Radcliffe and their daughter contradicted Zina's. Her unwillingness to cooperate, paired with the conflicting statements, caused the district attorney not to prosecute Radcliffe.
Willis wrote that Brown Deer police "acted appropriately in this case and investigated thoroughly ... the only recourse the officers had at the time was to refer the case to the Milwaukee County District Attorney's office and seek prosecution."
The experts' criticism begins with photographed injuries of Radcliffe's arm.
"No analysis of whether these are offensive or defensive," they wrote. "No officer went to the home to look for corroborating evidence and to pursue investigation."
At the end of his report, Willis makes nine specific recommendations to the Brown Deer Police Department: increased and recurring training in domestic abuse; training in tactical deployment and other tactical training; an "early warning system" database to catalog incident details; all department members, especially decision makers, should write detailed reports on what actions were and weren't taken with regard to any incident that could be related to domestic abuse, and include recommendation in the early warning system database; implementation of on-officer cameras to increase documentation, accountability, and transparency; hiring of a media representative for the department; retraining of all officers in police report writing, since many reports in the Haughton case "left much to be desired"; training for officers transitioning from the investigative bureau to street assignments; and a more aggressive approach to domestic abuse law enforcement contacts, instead of the "current and common practice" or referring victims and offenders to the district attorney for an after-the-fact-review of events.
The experts, more than anything, emphasized the need for training.
"While we find the investigations in these cases as documented in police reports to be inadequate with little understanding of domestic abuse, there were no indications of in the reports reflecting poor attitudes by responding officers, only the need for extensive training," they wrote, adding in another section of their report, "Command staff needs to make it clear to the first responders that these cases are serious, adequate training will be provided and that cases will be reviewed to identify continuing training needs. Every member of the command staff has to share this commitment to change the culture and proficiency of the agency."
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