Tempe Police Use of Force Sentinel Event Review (SER)

Executive Summary

The events of August 29, 2020 at the Hawthorne Suites Hotel unfolded quickly, and led to undesired outcomes that none of the participants intended. A TPD Officer who came to the hotel to investigate a trespassing complaint was told less than 60 seconds after entering the hotel lobby that there was an armed and dangerous suspect in the hotel. Roughly 90 seconds later, the Officer was detaining the Employee at gunpoint, and only 90 seconds later, the employee’s identity had been confirmed and the Officer told the employee he could leave. In fact, the sum total of the interactions between the TPD Officer, the Manager, and the Sergeant was less than ten (10) minutes.

It seems clear that none of the participants in the incident wanted events to unfold in the way that they did. The Employee did not want to be held at gunpoint for 90 seconds; the Manager did not want to provide inaccurate information and subject his employee to an interaction with TPD involving a gun and a mistaken identification; the Officer did not want to detain the wrong individual, create a public concern about racial bias within TPD and receive sanctions for his behavior; and the Sergeant did not want an unpleasant interaction with the Manager to lead to disciplinary sanctions against the Sergeant.

This Report attempts to provide context and analysis to answer two questions. First, if no one wanted these undesirable events to occur, what factors caused them to occur anyway? Second, how can the environment in which TPD officers work be modified in the future so that such events will not occur?

The Reviewers identified three (3) overarching undesirable outcomes from the incident at the Hawthorne Suites Hotel on August 29, 2020 that were worthy of review:

  1. The use of unnecessary force by the Officer against the Employee
  2. The lack of emotional control by the Officer and the Sergeant during the incident
  3. Public perceptions of racial bias by the Officer and potentially the Department as a whole