Rob Douglas' column appears Fridays in the Steamboat Today. He can be reached at rdouglas@SteamboatToday.com.
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Steamboat Springs Last week, this column questioned whether Oak Creek Police Chief Russ Caterinicchio is qualified to conclude that "nothing inappropriate" occurred during the arrest and tasing of former Oak Creek Mayor Kathy "Cargo" Rodeman and whether he has the appropriate temperament for his job.
This week, while examining Oak Creek's Taser policy, I got a full dose of the chief's temperament.
You would think it should be easy to learn if the Oak Creek police should have sought a medical evaluation of Ms. Rodeman after tasing her by reviewing the Oak Creek Police Department Policies & Procedures Manual. But while the answer is easy, Chief Caterinicchio has a way of needlessly complicating matters.
The current Taser policy was written by former Police Chief Linda Koile, with an effective date of May 10, 2006. The policy states: "It will be Oak Creek Police Department's policy to activate E.M.S. [Emergency Medical Services] upon deploying the Taser to check the individual that was Tased and or transport if necessary."
That policy was modified and enacted by the Oak Creek Town Board on Oct.12, 2006, as recorded in the board's minutes "with the stipulated changes, i.e., no use on passive resisters and that the police commissioners will be notified as soon as practicable when a Taser is deployed and that the tased party will be transported to the hospital in Steamboat Springs."
It is clear the Oak Creek police, in keeping with the approved Taser policy, should have sought a medical evaluation of Ms. Rodeman.
Unfortunately, the fact is the police did not "activate E.M.S." or have Ms. Rodeman "transported to the hospital in Steamboat Springs." It was not until Ms. Rodeman requested medical treatment hours later that she received medical attention.
Given the policy and the board's stipulations, Chief Caterinicchio's statement that "nothing inappropriate" occurred is more in doubt than ever.
Now to the chief's temperament.
While researching the Taser policy, I learned a document titled "Oak Creek Police Department Standard Operating Procedure Taser X26/M26," dated Jan. 1, 2008, was faxed by Chief Caterinicchio to the Steamboat Pilot & Today in response to a request for "a copy of OCPD's current Taser policy."
The document differs from the May 10, 2006, Taser policy discussed above and, until I showed it to them, had never been seen by Oak Creek Mayor J. Elliott or police commissioners Wisecup and Ege.
To complicate matters further, I discovered a third document also effective Jan. 1 titled "Oak Creek Police Department Policy and Procedures Manual 6-005 Use of Less Than Lethal Conducted Energy Weapons Systems." That document was in a draft of new policies and procedures under review by the Oak Creek police commissioners.
In an attempt to clarify which document the chief considered in force, I met with him Wednesday. Within moments, the chief became agitated when he saw the Jan. 1 draft copy of his recommended Taser policy and, unbeknownst to me at that moment, removed the document from a stapled compilation of documents in my possession.
A minute or two later, as the chief declined to answer any further questions and left the room, I realized he had a document in his hand. I quickly determined he had removed the draft policy. I located the chief in his office and demanded he return the document he had "stolen." He stated that I wasn't authorized to have the document. I again demanded he return the document. He then claimed to have destroyed it and ordered me out of his office perhaps not aware of the invention of photocopiers and the possibility I had made other copies.
If Chief Caterinicchio truly felt I had a document I was not entitled to, he should have discussed it like a professional. The chief's behavior is appalling and lends credence to the ever-multiplying complaints and reports about his confrontational demeanor with the community that signs his paycheck.
If this is how the chief acts with someone just trying to make sense of the chief's administrative decisions, I shudder at the thought of how he will react if ever confronted with a true crisis calling for clear thinking at a time of peril.