David Josiah Lawson
The city of Arcata has hired the nonprofit Police Foundation to review the Arcata Police Department’s controversial response to the April 15, 2017, stabbing death
of Humboldt State University sophomore David Josiah Lawson at an off-campus party.
According to a Sept. 10 memo to the city council from City Manager Karen Diemer that was released by the city today, the foundation was hired to “review the police department’s response and to make recommendations for improving major criminal events, including response to, and investigation of, catastrophic, multiple-victim and/or multiple-witness incidents in the future.” The foundation has completed an “in-town” review of case materials and spent a week conducting interviews in the region for a “response analysis.” Diemer says she expects the foundation’s final report before the end of the year.
The foundation’s website
states its mission is to “advance policing through innovation and science.” It bills itself as the “oldest nationally known, nonprofit, nonpartisan and non-membership-driven organization dedicated to improving America’s most noble profession — policing.”
The police response to Lawson’s slaying has come under fire from multiple sides, with scrutiny increasing after the lone suspect in the case — Kyle Zoellner — was released from custody after a judge determined there was insufficient evidence
to hold him to stand trial. A retired FBI agent, Tom Parker, was brought in to consult on APD’s investigation but stepped away
in April, publicly criticizing the department’s initial response and charging that officers had withheld information and lied to him during the consultation process.
In her Sept. 10 memo, Diemer also updated the council on the amount of resources the department has dedicated to the case. In addition to the two-detective team that has been working the case from the beginning, Diemer writes that the city has brought on an investigative case analyst with decades of experience to review the case and develop an action plan for the detectives to execute and two additional detectives, each with more than 30 years of experience. Additionally, according to Diemer, the HSU Police Department has also assigned a sergeant to assist the investigation on a part-time basis.
“This enhanced investigative team is following up and re-investigating every lead previously brought forth in the case, as well as new leads they have developed from their case reviews,” Diemer writes.
See the full memo here