Sgt. Ronald Kidd, a 21-year veteran, suddenly retired this week after Chief James Craig suspended and publicly shamed him, saying it was the second time that he had ignored critical duties by refusing to get involved. Police from across the country attended a funeral Friday for the officer who was killed.
The fatal shooting came a few weeks after two off-duty Georgia officers were fired for running from gunfire at a party. Elsewhere, a deputy is facing charges for not trying to stop a gunman at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida.
Experts said it’s hard to know how common it is for officers to look the other way in the face of risk because there are no statistics. But danger, they add, is part of the job. “You don’t just get a bulletproof vest and a gun because they make you look like a real man. You get them because they’re unfortunately part of the tools of the trade,” said Seth Stoughton, a former police officer who trained officers and now teaches at University of South Carolina law school.
Detroit officer Rasheen McClain, 46, was killed and another officer was injured when they entered a house on Nov. 20. An ex-convict, JuJuan Parks, was ultimately arrested and charged with murder. Before entering, McClain sought help from a supervisor but didn’t get any and decided to make his own decisions, Craig said.
Kidd, meanwhile, was a block away, telling a younger officer that “we should get cover,” according to video reviewed by the chief. “I know of no time where I’ve seen this kind of neglect,” Craig said of Kidd. “And, some could infer from my statements, maybe some cowardice.”
Steve Dolunt, who retired as assistant chief in 2017, said the sergeant’s job would be to set up a perimeter and decide how to proceed against a suspected gunman inside a house. “I’m blown away by this,” Dolunt said.
Kidd’s attorney, Odey Meroueh, said the sergeant's actions were clouded that night by post-traumatic stress disorder. He said PTSD was only recently diagnosed and led to Kidd’s retirement this week. “He couldn’t have done anything to save the officer,” Meroueh said Friday. “There was an immediate and substantial response to the scene by his fellow officers such that his direct involvement could not have possibly altered the tragic events. That’s my understanding of the situation.”
It wasn’t the first time that Kidd was accused of neglecting his job. A discipline board wanted to fire him in 2014 after he stood by while a mentally ill man attacked a female officer, Craig said. But Kidd survived with a suspension and was subsequently promoted to sergeant, under union rules.
“Someone signed my name and it was not my signature. ... I was stunned,” Craig said of the suspension agreement. Kidd remains under investigation in the incident that led to McClain’s death. “As to whether or not his inaction amounts to criminal misconduct will ultimately be the decision of the prosecutor when our investigation is finished,” Craig told The Detroit News.
In suburban Atlanta, Clayton County Sheriff Victor Hill recently fired two officers who were accused of running from gunfire while working off-duty at a private party. A teenager was killed. Stoughton said officers must balance risks.
“You do not want officers who approach too aggressively and officers who refuse to approach at all,” he said. “If you end up on either side of those extremes it’s a problem.” Meanwhile, law enforcement officers filled Greater Grace Temple for McClain’s funeral Friday. Craig promoted him to sergeant posthumously, describing McLain as an “American hero who will never be forgotten.”
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