Loveland PD implementing changes after arrest of 73-year-old with dementia

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LOVELAND, Colo. (KDVR) — An arrest seen across the country is prompting the Loveland city manager to implement some changes to the police department he oversees.

Karen Garner, 73, was arrested last summer after workers at a Walmart thought she was stealing from the store. When they confronted her video shows her pulling the mask off an employee’s face, which prompted the call to police.

By the time police caught up with Garner she was on her way home. An officer’s body cam footage shows what happens from there.

As it turns out Garner has dementia and according to a lawsuit filed in April the way she was physically treated during her arrest led to injuries.

The videos were “difficult to watch,” according to City Manager Steve Adams, who oversees Loveland Police Department.

Adams said outright the officers’ actions were not reflective of the values of the organization and staff. 

He also said there had been a loss of public trust. 

“I cannot fathom the level of confusion and concern shared by Ms. Garner and her family and these events,” said Adams. 

A meeting Tuesday night was the first time the community had a chance to hear the Adams’ insights and the actions he’s taking in response to the arrest.

“I am committed to ensuring our organization meets the community standards for safety and service. I understand and emphasize the concerns raised by our community members especially our senior citizens,” said Adams during the virtual meeting. 

City leaders have been hit by a barrage of questions regarding the department’s training policies, knowledge of the arrest and employment status of the officers.

Adams said mandatory training is now required on how to deal with citizens who have mental illness.

Officers will also be required to take training on how to recognize Alzheimer’s and dementia while on patrol.

Blue team reports, used to report use of excessive force, will now also include the city attorney’s office and human resources so those offices are independently aware of the incidents. 

A review of paid leave policy for officers under extenuating circumstances is also being looked at. Four officers are currently on administrative leave.

“I want to take moment to recognize this is not a final solution. The step listed above are only immediate actions we are taking restore public trust in our city,” said Adams. 

They were stern words, but the question is what kind of action will be taken to prevent this from ever happening again.

An independent investigation is now being conducted by the Fort Collins Police Department and the District Attorney. Loveland will conduct a separate investigation once this is completed.

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