DeLand, FL - A corporal with the DeLand Police Department is recommended for demotion to police officer and placed on paid administrative leave after an internal investigation finds he threatened to beat a man being trespassed from a convenience store last June.
Ken L. Ramkissoon - who was under probationary supervisor status at the time of that incident - could also receive 36 hours of unpaid suspension and additional de-escalation training if those recommendations are applied by Police Chief Jason D. Umberger, according to a 17-page report released earlier today (August 7th) by DeLand PD.
While releasing that report to the media, DeLand PD also released a letter from Umberger saying that he wants to "assure the public" that he plans to continue upholding high conduct standards for his officers.
"After a thorough investigation, two officers were found to have sustained violations of policy," Umberger stated. "Under Florida law, they have a right to a due process hearing which has not occurred yet."
The officers he's referring to are Ramkissoon and Ben Wise, who did not turn on his body camera at any point during that June 24th incident at a 7-Eleven on North Woodland Boulevard, according to the report.
The complaint was initially lodged by former DeLand PD Officer Allison Bainbridge, a new hire who was terminated by the department for not meeting performance standards on July 19th, less than a month after she spoke to higher-ups about what happened. Bainbridge has since told various media outlets that she believes her termination came as retaliation for filing the complaint.
According to the report, Ramkissoon, Bainbridge and Wise were called to the 7-Eleven around 1 a.m. that day by an employee who wanted a 56-year-old man trespassed after that man had threatened the employee in the past. It was the man being trespassed, according to Bainbridge, who was threatened by Ramkissoon, an act she felt was unprofessional.
During her interview, Bainbridge claimed Ramkissoon committed "assault" on that man by pointing a finger in his face and threatening to "beat his ass".
When internal investigators went to review the body camera footage for all three officers, it was discovered that only Bainbridge had activated her camera during the time that threat was made, per the report.
"This was [Ramkissoon's] second offense involving department video equipment and failing to have it activated," Umberger noted in his letter.
When interviewed afterward, the report shows Ramkissoon "accepted fault" for his actions, claiming that he had been frustrated at the time.
Ramkissoon has requested a "show cause hearing" with Chief Umberger to talk about what discipline he might face. No date has been scheduled for that at this time.
Wise will receive a letter of counseling for not activating his body camera as it was his first such violation, per Umberger's letter, the full text of which is posted below.
To the residents of DeLand and the general public,
I would like to address reports that have been circulated regarding a June 24, 2018 incident where one of our probationary supervisors, Corporal Ken Ramkissoon, was reported by two officers as having directed profanity toward a subject who had been reported to have been causing a disturbance at a city convenience store.
The conclusion of the internal affairs investigation was delayed due to Ramkissoon being on prior scheduled leave out of state, so we were not able to interview him until Tuesday, July 31. Police officers in Florida are entitled to due process protection under the Florida Officer Bill of Rights and among those rights is the right to be heard concerning any allegation of misconduct and the right to a due process hearing.
After a thorough investigation, two officers were found to have sustained violations of policy. Under Florida law they have a right to a due process hearing which has not occurred yet.
As such we would like to share the outcome of our investigation with the public.
At 1:09 a.m. on June 24, 2018, Corporal Ken Ramkissoon, Officer Ben Wise and Probationary Officer Allison Bainbridge responded to a dispatch call to trespass two subjects at 319 North Woodland Boulevard, which is the 7-Eleven. One of the subjects, it was learned, had been previously trespassed from that property and had threatened an employee at that location.
Contrary to media reports, one of the men who Corporal Ramkissoon spoke to was being trespassed and is known to law enforcement. In fact, this man, whose name is Stuart Aviles, has been arrested 15 times, according to Volusia County records. In this instance, a clerk at the 7-Eleven had reported to our officers that Aviles was licking the storefront window and the previous evening he had threatened the same clerk with a brick. The clerk requested that Aviles be trespassed from the property. Another subject, Gerald Davis, was also trespassed.
We learned during the course of our investigation that Corporal Ramkissoon had used profanities and other language that was unprofessional and threatening toward the two subjects who were ultimately trespassed that night. The use of profanities directed toward the public and/or using unprofessional and discourteous speech violates our standards of conduct, regardless if it is in furtherance of lawful objectives. It violates the Law Enforcement Code of Ethics, our policy, our mission statement and our core values.
Our law enforcement code of ethics reads in part:
“I vow to treat others with courtesy at all times. I consider it a professional weakness to allow another’s behavior to dictate my response. I will not allow others’ actions or failings to be my excuse for not performing my duties in a responsible, professional and expected manner”
From a new policy that we instituted on June 22, 2018 on standards of general conduct and courtesy reads in part:
“The practice of courtesy in all public contacts encourages understanding and appreciation; discourtesy breeds contempt and resistance. While the urgency of a situation might preclude the ordinary social amenities, discourtesy under any circumstances is indefensible. The practice of courtesy by an officer is not a manifestation of weakness; it is on the contrary, entirely consistent with the firmness and impartiality that characterizes a professional police officer. Courtesy towards the public will be strictly observed. A member’s conduct and deportment shall always be civil, orderly, and courteous. He/she shall be diplomatic and tactful in the performance of their duties, controlling his/her temper and exercising the utmost patience and discretion and shall not engage in argumentative discussions even in the face of extreme provocation; however, when required he/she must act with firmness and sufficient emergency to properly perform their duties. He/she shall at all times refrain from using coarse, violent, profane, or insolent language, and from voicing any bias or prejudice concerning race, religion, or politics.”
We also learned through the course of our investigation that Corporal Ramkissoon had not activated his body camera which is a violation of our policy as well.
For his conduct, we determined that Ramkissoon has not performed at an acceptable level during his probationary period as a Corporal. I expect all supervisors to lead by example. Ramkissoon will be returned to the rank of Police Officer and I am recommending he be suspended for two days without pay for his conduct and suspended a third day without pay for failing to turn on his body camera as required by policy (pending his due process hearing). This was his second offense involving department video equipment and failing to have it activated. He will also be ordered to attend re-training in utilizing de-escalation techniques.
Additionally, Officer Ben Wise will receive a letter of counseling for not activating his body camera as all officers are required to do during citizen encounters. This was his first offense for failing to turn on his body camera. Another concerning aspect that the body worn camera video displayed is that it appears Officer Wise was making light of what was about to happen in the interaction between Ramkissoon and the subject who was being trespassed. However, during the course of our investigation, we learned that Officer Wise’s comment of “watch Ken” was referring to an accent that Ramkissoon has that is often times the subject of humor among other officers of the department. Officer Wise was counseled that this conduct could be perceived by the public in a different light and that he should be cognizant of what he says and how he says things and that this type of comment is unprofessional and creates the wrong impression with the public. It should also be noted that Officer Wise did the right thing and reported his concerns regarding Ramkissoon’s conduct to a superior officer.
As your Chief of Police, I will not tolerate this type of unprofessional conduct in our Police Department nor tolerate officers who would give tacit approval to conduct that violates our standards. Thankfully two officers that night did report this conduct to a superior officer.
While this incident produced some moments of poor judgment for officers Ramkissoon and Wise, I believe they can learn from this experience as they have acknowledged their mistakes. I want to believe that their hearts are focused on serving the great residents of this community and I trust them with this responsibility.
Our officers often are placed in difficult situations and have to deal with people under difficult circumstances but I expect our officers to conduct themselves in a professional manner regardless of the conduct of the subject they are dealing with or with the circumstances they may find themselves in.
I want to assure the public that I am committed to upholding high standards of conduct for our officers. We are constantly looking for ways to improve our service and will continue to do so. Each of our officers has registered their commitment to upholding our mission, core values and high standards of conduct. I have seen this commitment displayed by many officers in our department including Ramkissoon and Wise in the first 14 months I’ve been Chief of Police.
Yours in service,
Police Chief Jason D. Umberger