Two Officers Cleared In Jury Trial, Then Chief Fires Them Anyway

Austin Police Chief Brian Manley said he didn't believe the officers' memories had been affected by stress in a memo.

Austin, TX – The Austin Police Department (APD) fired two officers on Monday who were recently cleared of wrongdoing by a Travis County jury, and the police union is outraged.

A jury found Austin Police Officers Donald Petraitis and Robert Pfaff not guilty of tampering with physical evidence, tampering with government records, assault, official oppression, and abuse of official capacity in December of 2018, the Statesman reported.

Officer Pfaff was also exonerated on a perjury charge at the same time.

But that wasn’t good enough for Austin Police Chief Brian Manley. On Monday, he released the officers’ disciplinary memos and announced they had both been terminated.

Officers Petraitis and Pfaff faced trial for an incident that occurred in February of 2018, when the officers responded to a shooting scene near 12th and Red River Streets, KTBC reported.

There was a big crowd on hand, and the officers ordered the witnesses to get on the ground because they did not know who in the group had weapons.

Quentin Perkins, who later admitted he was high on PCP at the time, failed to comply with all of the officers’ commands and got Tased, KTBC reported.

Prosecutors argued that the officers had lied about the details of the incident to justify tasing Perkins.

They accused Officer Petraitis and Pfaff of excessive use-of-force for tasing Perkins while he was on his knees with his hands in the air, KVUE reported.

However, bodycam video from the scene showed that the officers had actually told Perkins to lay down and put his head on the ground and he had failed to comply with those orders.

But the version of events in police reports submitted by Officers Petraitis and Pfaff did not exactly match the incident as it unfolded on other officers’ bodycam videos from the scene, despite the officers knowledge that the incident was being recorded, the Statesman reported.

Defense attorneys argued that the memories and perception of the officers’ may have been affected by the stress they were under at the scene.

After the officers were cleared of their charges by a Travis County jury, they expected to be returned to duty.

However, the Austin PD determined that the officers' use of a Taser was "inappropriate, unnecessary, objectively unreasonable, and a violation of department policy,” KXAN reported.

The officers’ attorneys said they plan to appeal former Officers Petraitis and Pfaff’s terminations.

“We were hopeful that lessons had been learned from the evidence we presented in the criminal trial, particularly the scientific evidence regarding human perception from a tenured UT psychology professor, as well as the evidence we elicited from APD’s own training academy officers who instructed Officers Petraitis and Pfaff on Taser use,” attorneys for the officers, Ken Ervin and Doug O’Connell, said in a statement, according to the Statesman.

The announcement that the officers had been fired came as the clock ran out on the latest deadline for the chief to determine the officers’ fate.

In the disciplinary memo he released, Chief Manley said that parts of the officers’ reports were “simply not true,” and he accused the officers of coordinating their stories as a coverup, the Statesman reported.

“But for the event being fortuitously captured on [a body camera], we would never know what actually happened to Mr. Perkins,” the chief wrote. “Mr. Perkins was not standing, was not looking towards the creek as if planning on trying to get away, and was not attempting to walk away when the decision was made to deploy the Taser.”

“I find it improbable that both officers came up with a similar version of events, which included things that did not happen ... as well as not recalling what actually did happen,” Chief Manley continued. “I have serious concerns that Officer Pfaff and Petraitis got their stories straight before they spoke with [a supervisor] and prepared their reports and the probable cause affidavit.”

He said he didn’t believe the officers’ story that they had misremembered because they were under stress, the Statesman reported.

“A claim that the officers were under such extreme stress that they suffered some type of memory lapse, amnesia, incorrectly perceived the events, or got the events out of sequence is without merit,” the chief wrote. “These are two senior officers with extensive experience and training.”

The Austin police officers’ union fired back at Chief Manley’s memo and said they were “sickened” by it, the Statesman reported.

“Plenty of science and research exists and is readily available on the topics of perception, attention, memory, sensory overload and a host of other reasons that people don’t remember situations the same way a camera can record them,” Union President Ken Casaday and Vice President Thomas Villarreal wrote in a combined statement. “This was information that was given at trial.”

Comments (27)
No. 1-15
1Starhoosier
1Starhoosier

So they rtazed a guy that was high on pcp......why not throw the drugged up goon in jail instead of firing the cops

LEO0301
LEO0301

Another chief, in the long line of chiefs, who care more about public perception of him rather than standing behind his officers. I'm sure moral sucks in Austin

Burgers Allday
Burgers Allday

"Beyond a reasonable doubt" is the standard in most criminal trials. That is different, and much more rigorous, than the standard of proof required to fire somebody. This is true for policemen and non-policemen alike.

61mouse
61mouse

There's much better police agencies out there .....consider it a blessing in disguise

Caroparks53
Caroparks53

bet this chief is a libnut demonrat..he obviously caved and now the thug will sue and get a million or more for his pain..thanks to this so called cop

Skidoo
Skidoo

Politically, Austin PD is about the same as San Francisco minus the syringes and feces.

IN4N62LONG
IN4N62LONG

Thank you Chief Manley for doing the right thing! The public's perception of seeing all "Officers" as honest and having integrity is frankly "ignorance". No one is above the law and that includes my brothers and sisters in blue. Let's praise those Officers who perform their duties with honor and respect for the communities they serve.

bob95648
bob95648

Regardless of whether these two made up a story, if their combined recollection of a fairly routine event is so unreliable...

Bobholly79
Bobholly79

Another pos chief

HAWAIIBLUE
HAWAIIBLUE

Typical Chief that forgot where he came from. He’s probably one of them that stepped on people to get where he is. Probably has next to no patrol time at all, promoted quickly because he’s scared, and now he makes decisions on officers when he himself has never really walked in their shoes. I’ve seen this with one of our past chiefs. Fire the officers for liability reasons, and then have them and the union fight for their job back. That way if something happens down the road, the department can wash their hands and say “hey, we fired them, but the union and arbitration allowed them back”. Just to look good in the public’s eyes they’ll feed their own to the wolves.

CoppsAreRacistsNazis
CoppsAreRacistsNazis

Very unusual for cop not to support one of his subordinate racist cops.

Woobie46
Woobie46

CIVIL SUITS MATTER! Sue the city, the chief, the administrator...sue each and every person you can. Get a hard core lawyer who won't let go and just DO IT! Only way to make them think two times. SUE!

Woobie46
Woobie46

when the coppers give an order and it is NOT obeyed immediately, I think the scummers out there should just assume a tazer will be deployed. What an asshole the chief is...but he is pandering to his wealthy left community and hasn't the balls to do what is right. So SUE THE BASTARD until he cries...and the city!

CopsRthugs
CopsRthugs

Crooked lie for your brothers in blue days are ending. I wonder when the good cops will finally man up enough to get rid of the angry, sad and destructive ones.

IseeWhereThisIsGoing
IseeWhereThisIsGoing

Not to say the police chief was right in his actions, however it's possible their actions didn't rise the the level of criminal, however likely violated departmental policies in his eyes.

I'm not saying he was right, but internal affairs departments have investigated and recommended the termination of officers who committed violations that didn't arise to the level of a criminal complaints