Charmaine Lawson and her supporters confront Arcata police chief Brian Ahearn following a demonstration on the two year anniversary of her son David Josiah Lawson’s death on the Arcata Plaza on April 15. | Photo by Thomas Lal

Report Reveals Shortcomings in Lawson Case

National Police Foundation identifies issues and makes recommendations
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National Police Foundation identifies issues and makes recommendations

By Grace Caswell and James Wilde

The National Police Foundation assessment team reviewed the first 72 hours of the Josiah Lawson homicide case and released a 65-page review on Feb. 20. The report included NPF’s response to the case and feedback for the Arcata Police Department.

NPF said APD responded professionally to the crime scene at 1120 Spear Ave. on April 15, 2017, but the crime scene lacked proper security and management.

“Many basic tenets of crime scene security and management were not followed in this case,” NPF said.

The Arcata City Council commissioned the report in September 2018 for $30,000. NPF is an independent, nonpartisan organization that analyzes police cases.

From August 2018-2019, NPF conducted 24 interviews and reviewed reports, transcripts and court procedures, including 50 hours of recordings and 6 hours of APD dashboard camera video. Due to the ongoing status of the case, NPF couldn’t interview any witnesses or partygoers other than first responders.

NPF said APD personnel weren’t trained or given access to necessary equipment, which are common issues in small law enforcement teams. As a result, APD couldn’t sufficiently manage the crime scene and investigation.

NPF recommended APD do more to communicate and build relationships with the Arcata community.

“The APD chief has an opportunity to institute a culture of ongoing evaluation of the department’s performance—especially in critical incidents or unusual responses,” NPF said. “This is how organizations grow, evolve, learn, and improve.”

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