Next Tuesday, Bethany Beach police Lt. Richard Haden will have a hearing on Nov. 12, at 9 a.m. at Bethany Beach Town Hall.
Haden was indicted on an assault charge in April and turned himself in to Capital Police in Georgetown that same day. After being arraigned, he was released on $500 unsecured bond. He was charged with Assault in the Third Degree, which, according to Delaware Code §611, is a Class A misdemeanor.
According to the code, “A person is guilty of assault in the third degree when: (1) The person intentionally or recklessly causes physical injury to another person; or (2) With criminal negligence the person causes physical injury to another person by means of a deadly weapon or a dangerous instrument.”
The indictment came after Bethany Police Chief Mike Redmon had reviewed video of Haden interacting on March 3 with a 45-year-old man in police custody on suspicion of drunk driving, and had referred the incident to the Attorney General’s Office.
Haden was suspended from his job on March 4, with pay and benefits. However, following the indictment, Haden was suspended without pay or benefits.
On Aug. 28, Superior Court Judge E. Scott Bradley granted a defense motion filed by one of Haden’s attorneys, resulting in the granting of a Judgment of Acquittal.
The hearing will be overseen by the Delaware Council on Police Training. Such a hearing occurs any time an officer is suspended, as granted in the Law Enforcement Officers’ Bill of Rights, part of Delaware Code.
Haden’s attorney Joe Hurley said the hearing is more relaxed in terms of rules, compared to a court trial, and will be presided over by three police officers.
“It’s still the same, they go first, present their case, cross-examination. It’s that same protocol but a reduced standard of admissibility and not as strict an adherence to the rules of evidence,” he explained. “Their burden is not proof beyond a reasonable doubt but is through substantial evidence.”
Hurley said that there are three possible outcomes for the hearing.
“They can say, ‘the city has not met its burden of substantial evidence,’ in which case he’s cool. But that doesn’t deal with his issue of his employment, just his ability to be a police officer. They could say, ‘we’re not pleased with what he did,’ and say, ‘what we’re going to do is…’ and take action less than certification. Suspension for example, ‘I think you ought to sit on the sideline for 60 days to cool off.’ It’s at their discretion,” he explained. “Or, they could decertify him as a police officer. If they decertify him, he’s done. His career is gone.”
According to Delaware Code, “upon conclusion of the hearing… the board shall submit its findings and recommendation to the full Council in writing for consideration and vote. The ultimate findings of the Council shall be final, except that any ruling adverse to any party participating in the hearing may be appealed to the Superior Court within 15 days of receipt of written notification of said finding. Absent an appeal, all findings of the Council shall become final upon expiration of said appeal deadline.
Hurley said that even if the Council finds that the town does not meet its burden of proof, he may still be fired from his position in the police department.
“The town can still fire him. But that gets into a different thing where there’s a wrongful firing. They’re not stuck with him if they don’t want him.”
The hearing will be open to the public, and Hurley said he hopes it will clear up some misconceptions people may have regarding the March incident.
“We’ve got nothing to hide. Any kind of cloud of, ‘boy he’s a really bad guy,’ would be evaporated. So you can see when someone threatens your family, and acts like a wild bull, weighing 100 pounds more than you are, you use reasonable means to protect yourself, as he’s entitled to do.”
Bethany Beach officials declined comment on the issue, and said their statements would be made at the hearing.
For coverage of the hearing Tuesday night, be sure to visit www.coastalpoint.com later that evening.