Cedar Park holds hearing for fired police sergeant

Ex Cedar Park Sergeant Kristine Miller (KXAN Photo)
Ex Cedar Park Sergeant Kristine Miller (KXAN Photo)

CEDAR PARK, Texas (KXAN) — A fired Cedar Park police sergeant will continue to plead her case in front of a mediator Thursday in an effort to get her job back.

Ex-Sergeant Kristine Miller is accused of lying about a colleague’s use of force that happened just after midnight on April 26, 2015. Miller’s attorney, Brad Heilman, says the arbitration hearing focuses on an incident where Officer Dylan Woods, a subordinate under Sgt. Miller, pushed a man down with his shotgun.

Cedar Park hearing for fired sergeant
Cedar Park hearing for fired sergeant

Her attorney says the Cedar Park Police Department claims Sgt. Miller was not truthful during the investigation. They believe she instructed Officer Dylan Woods not to write a use of force report, and later lied about that, saying she never told her officer not to write a report. During Wednesday’s hearing, Officer Woods took the stand, saying he never told anyone that Miller told him not to file a report, only that it may not be necessary.

“The individual [who was pushed down] had no injuries, he claimed we did not strike him whatsoever, no officer struck him whatsoever, he had no complaints, that [Miller] did not believe a use of force report needed to be complete,” said Woods on the stand.

An attorney for the city of Cedar Park spent most of Wednesday’s hearing arguing that Miller approved and reviewed the use of force report, even when Miller’s boss, Lieutenant Bobby Vernengo, claims she didn’t thoroughly investigate the incident. Vernengo says when he reviewed the report after Miller, he had some concerns about the use of force.

“The actual use of the shotgun itself to attempt to strike or force the subject down was not needed,” said Lieutenant Bobby Vernengo.

Cedar Park police say when an officer reviews and approves a use of force report, that means they support the actions of the officer who filed the report.

Lt. Vernengo also testified that Woods’ statement in the use of force report didn’t appear to be accurate after watching the video and seeing how the suspect behaved. Vernengo said Woods’ wrote that the suspect was backing up, when the video showed he was walking toward the officers.

Miller’s attorney pointed out that police did not reprimand Woods for untruthfulness in his report.

Vernengo also testified that Miller did not view police dash cam video of the incident before she approved the use of force report. He says that’s an important part of the review. Miller’s attorney says Miller did not know initially know about the dash cam video.

The city also says Miller was put on a performance improvement plan in October 2014, and that Lt. Vernengo said she had still not improved six months later, when this use of force incident happened.

A car chase of a shoplifting suspect that ended in a crash where a driver lost one of her legs was brought up. The city says Miller was in charge that night. Miller was terminated on Oct. 22.

Miller’s attorney argued these incidents have nothing to do with the use of force case, which is why the police department said they fired Miller.

This hearing will continue in City Council Chambers at 9 a.m. Thursday.

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