In the end, he lost only 10 hours of freedom. It could have been worse.
A 20-year-old Ashland man wrongly arrested for creating a disturbance in a Siskiyou Boulevard store spent 10 hours behind bars before a call from his father prompted officers to perform “basic follow-up police work,” in the words of Chief Tighe O’Meara. A check of the store’s surveillance video clearly showed the perpetrator was not the man they had arrested.
The only description police had of the person they were looking for was an African-American man wearing a dark sweatshirt. It’s not unusual for initial witness descriptions to lack detail, but officers should have double checked after they contacted the wrongly arrested man and before they took him into custody and lodged him in jail.
To his credit, O’Meara is not defending his officers or insisting they did nothing wrong. The decision to arrest and jail the man was made “much too quickly,” the chief said. “He should never have seen the inside of a police car.”
O’Meara said the arresting officer and two others involved in the case, including a shift supervisor, will be held accountable, and promised to complete an investigation within two weeks before deciding whether disciplinary action or more training is indicated.
“We’re taking this very seriously,” said the chief, who met with the man and his father at their home to apologize.
That’s the response the community is entitled to expect. Bravo to O’Meara and the department for doing the right thing.