KeyPoint to Investigate Sanders Shooting
The decision has not escaped criticism
Austin City Manager Marc Ott announced on Aug. 21 the selection of KeyPoint Government Solutions to conduct an independent investigation into the May police shooting death of Nathaniel Sanders II.
Sanders was shot by Officer Leonardo Quintana on May 11 in the parking lot of the Walnut Creek apartments. Sanders was asleep in a car suspected of being involved in a previous incident at the complex. Police say that when Quintana tried to wake Sanders, the 18-year-old grabbed for a gun that was tucked in his waistband.
After reviewing the investigation conducted by Austin Police Department Internal Affairs detectives, the Citizen Review Panel said last week that it would recommend an outside inquiry. "Based on the facts and circumstances of this case, it is our belief there is a need for an Independent Investigation," Police Monitor Cliff Brown wrote in an Aug. 19 memo to Ott. "We believe [the inquiry] is in the best interest of the community and will increase the community's trust in the investigative process."
Ott accepted the recommendation and said he would "in short order" review a list of firms able to handle the task compiled by the city attorney's office. Two days later he tapped KeyPoint, formerly known as Kroll, which, among other things, has experience in "police reform matters" – the company acted as independent monitor for the Los Angeles Police Department, for example, during the eight years the department was under a federal consent decree. Kroll was also the firm tapped in 2007 to conduct the independent inquiry into the APD shooting death of Kevin Brown by former Sgt. Michael Olsen. In that case, APD's internal inquiry found that Olsen's tactics leading up to the shooting did violate APD policy but ended up with an "inconclusive" finding on whether his use of deadly force was justified. Kroll issued a 95-page review of the Internal Affairs investigation, concluding that there were "significant shortcomings" in the internal review but that ultimately the "inconclusive" finding was justified. APD Chief Art Acevedo ended up firing Olsen, determining that the use of deadly force was not necessary.
Unlike the Brown shooting – for which the public was told the finding would be inconclusive prior to the independent investigation (a move the Austin Police Association said violated civil service law, because information about the investigation should not have been made public until the disciplinary process was final and an ultimate punishment was meted out) – in the Sanders case, there is still no public information regarding the findings or conclusions of Internal Affairs investigators.
Heading up the KeyPoint investigative team is Jeffrey Schlanger, the company's president and CEO, who also served as the deputy monitor and general manager for the nearly decadelong oversight of the LAPD. A report is due from KeyPoint in late September, well ahead of the Nov. 7 deadline for Acevedo to decide what discipline – if any – should be imposed on Quintana. (The deadline is mandated by civil service law, which allows 180 days from the date of the incident for discipline to be assessed.)
The selection was swift but has not satisfied Skip Davis, attorney for Sir Smith, who was also asleep in the car (which belonged to him) and who was also shot, but lived. Davis said he believes the city should have chosen the independent investigator the way attorneys in civil matters often select arbitrators: Both sides come up with a list of qualified persons or firms, and the first name found to be on both lists is the one that is chosen. That could have been done here, Davis argues, which would have served everybody's interests – the city, the Police Department, and both the Sanders and Smith families.
"This is another bullshit process," Davis says. "There is a lack of transparency with the grand jury, there is a lack of transparency with the police investigation, and now we're letting the city manager ... select a law firm from what list we don't even know." City spokesman Reyne Telles said Ott was pressed on this issue during a press conference last week; pulling everyone into the process is not an option, he said. In the end, Telles said, the choice is Ott's "sole decision."