Dr. Mathiesen: A Failure In Oversight

Dr. Chris Mathiesen has insisted on this blog that the circumstances of the injury and death of Darryl Mount were vigorously and impartially investigated.

I received a dump of police documents related to the Mount case which were posted on the city’s website. I believe these are the documents that Dr. Mathiesen refers to that were released in June, 2014, as proof the case was pursued properly.  There are some seventy-two pages.  Most of them are written statements by the police including descriptions of their interviews with possible witnesses.  There are also statements from witnesses.  In addition there are statements from the firemen who came to the scene and helped transport Darryl Mount to Albany Medical College. 

The one thing that is clear from these documents is that no one said they saw Darryl Mount fall.  Without reliable witnesses we will never know with certainty how he sustained his injuries that night.

Contrary to “best practices” the police involved in the incident submitted statements but were never interviewed.  The document dump includes no transcripts of interviews with the officers directly involved in the incident.  In the deposition of Police Chief Greg Veitch, it is clear that not only were none of these officers interviewed but nothing was done to insure that they were isolated from each other when they drafted their statements.

It is also important to note that the medical examiner was not asked to look at Darryl Mount immediately following his hospitalization in order to do a forensic examination and as far as I can tell, the dump does not include his autopsy.

Over the last few days I have been studying Dr. Mathiesen’s deposition in the Mount case (I will be posting most of it shortly).  It has helped me better understand what I took to be his reticence to provide documentation in support of many of his claims.

According to his deposition his concept of managing the police department was to place complete trust in Chief Veitch.  Dr. Mathiesen’s knowledge of what went on in the police department began and ended with what Veitch told him.  He played no part in the investigation.  Here are some quotes from the deposition:

Question:  “Did you leave it to Chief Veitch to decide whether or not there should be an internal investigation or administrative investigation into the allegations of police misconduct with regard to incident of August 31, 2013, and Darryl Mount?”

Answer: “I left that to Chief Veitch because that’s his position.  That’s his job.  That’s his responsibility.”

Question:  “Did you leave it to his absolute discretion to decide what to do with regard to the allegations of police misconduct that we’re talking about.”

Answer: “I left it to Chief Veitch to carry out his duties as he was required to do.”

Question: ”With regard to the allegations of police misconduct against the officers involved in the Darryl Mount incident in August 31, 2013, did you make an effort to determine whether or not the chief was following General Order Number 25?”

Answer: “Again, I left it to the chief and the department to investigate that incident.”

Question: “But you don’t know what he did?”

Answer: “Specifically know exactly what he did?”

Question: “Yes”

Answer: “No. That’s not my job.”

Question: “Well, is it your job to make sure he complies with the policies as set forth in the general orders?”

Answer: “It’s my job to oversee the department.  I have great faith in Chief Veitch and I’m sure that he is a person who follows orders directly.”

Question: “As part of your job at oversight,  was it your job to make sure that he followed the policies?”

Answer: “Yes”

Question: “What, if anything, did you do to make sure he was following the policies?”

Answer: “I had great faith in Chief Veitch and I assumed he followed the policies.”

Question: ”So you didn’t make any effort to make sure he followed the policies?”

Answer: “No”

Question: “Do you know how administrative or internal affairs investigations would be conducted?”

Answer: “Specifically, no.”

So what is clear is that Dr. Mathiesen completely removed himself from any oversight of how the investigation was carried out.  He insisted on no ongoing reports as it proceeded and absented himself from any management to insure its integrity.  According to the record, as the head of the Department of Public Safety, his faith in Chief Veitch was such that he simply allowed Chief Veitch carte blanche and accepted the result of the chief’s investigation without question. 

This explains why Dr. Mathiesen’s statements’ conspicuously are void of documentation but rely entirely on what he was told.  Since he was completely external to the process his only source of information was  Chief Veitch.  He assumed as a matter of faith that the chief had ferreted out all essential information.  The fact that Chief Veitch was found to have lied to the press has not impacted that faith nor has the revelation of the chief’s internal documents exonerating his subordinates prior to the completion of the investigation.

I find the deposition deeply disturbing.  As I noted I am putting up most of it on this site shortly and others who read it may come to different conclusions.  Between the deposition of Chief Veitch and Dr. Mathiesen’s deposition, in my opinion there was a breakdown in oversight.   The people of this city elected Dr. Mathiesen Commissioner to be vigilant in insuring the integrity of the Public Safety Department.  Regrettably, his approach to oversight was to simply put complete faith in his chief of police.  

The central issue remains that the department was required to follow General Order 25 and do an internal investigation and failed to do so.

I know that Dr. Mathiesen has worked thousands of hours on behalf of the people of this city to provide the best services possible.  I have no question that he sincerely believes that it was appropriate in the management of his department to place broad and unchecked authority into the hands of his Chief of Police.  I know that his commitment to public service is exemplary. 

I regret that I believe that his approach to this investigation compromised his ability to properly provide oversight to his department when it was critically needed.  I think that it is most unfortunate that his record of service should be tainted by his failure in this matter.



One thought on “Dr. Mathiesen: A Failure In Oversight”

  1. John – Chris is absolutely right. This is what a commission form of government is and is supposed to do. In a NORMAL government, you have the entire council as oversight, not just one person who really is NOT trained to be a pro at police work, firefighting or being an EMT (and that’s not a shot at Chris or anyone else whatsoever. It’s simply a fact of the commission form of government more often than not).

    (Didn’t see that one coming, did you? 😉 )


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