NewsLocal NewsInvestigations

Actions

Policing expert: Riviera Beach chief's order to unarrest city councilman 'very unusual,' especially in domestic violence cases

City manager says municipality reversed course once it learned state attorney received arrest report
DL.PNG
Posted at 6:06 PM, Sep 10, 2021
and last updated 2021-09-10 21:38:54-04

RIVIERA BEACH, Fla. — Maki Haberfeld is chair of law and police science at the John Jay College of Criminal Justice in New York City. She has written five books on issues related to police conduct and misconduct.

Haberfeld has never heard of the term "un-arrested" before -- and certainly not in the context of domestic violence.

But that is exactly what Riviera Beach Police Chief Nathan Osgood ordered his officers to do during a domestic battery investigation into Councilman Douglas Lawson on Aug. 29.

"It's very unusual to find a police chief to challenge officers discretion," Haberfeld told Contact 5 on Friday.

Security video at the Marina Grande showed a shoving match in the elevator between Lawson and his fiancé, Another video from the garage showed Lawson pulling Jade Calloway from the driver's seat of an SUV.

Calloway said she had too much to drink and Lawson was keeping her from getting behind the wheel and driving while intoxicated. She denied he ever committed battery against her.

Lawson was in custody before Osgood's order came down. The chief then fired the officer who wrote the arrest report, 15-year veteran Captain Rochelet Commond.

Then on Thursday, the city of Riviera Beach reinstated Commond and called for an outside investigation.

Riviera Beach's top cop Nathan Osgood.JPG

When Haberfeld was told of the fallout in Riviera Beach she decided to Google "un-arrested."

"It is not a term that is usually used in police jargon," told Contact 5.

Commond wrote in the police report: "Osgood provided a director order to un-arrest the suspect, and make him whole again."

Haberfeld said she understands after reviewing the video why Commond thought he had probable cause to charge Lawson. She said gone are the days where officers put on relationship counseling hats -- there is zero tolerance when it comes to domestic abuse.

"The officers have very little discretion whenever there are suspicions that there is actually a domestic violence situations," she said. "Officers need to charge somebody and later on during the investigation, things might change and person might be acquitted or somebody else might be arrested."

WPTV-JONATHAN-EVANS.jpg

Also on Friday, City Manager Jonathan Evans explained to Channel 5 why the city reversed Commond's termination.

At the time of his firing, Evans said Commond failed to tell the city he field the Lawson arrest report with the state attorney. The city later discovered Commond did file the paperwork.

“Had we known that, we wouldn’t have moved forward with the separation," Evans said.

Terrance Davis, the former Riviera Beach city councilman, said that it's time for the city to heal and the best way to do that is to put Commond back patrolling the streets.

“(He's) done a lot of work at the school for the kids. He’s always there. One of the best officers we’ve seen come through here," Davis said.

Evans said Commond will be on administrative leave pending an investigation. He said the city is deciding whether the Florida Department of Law Enforcement will conduct that investigation or if an private firm will do the work.

He said the investigation will take up to six months.

Email the Contact 5 Investigators
Share your news tips and story ideas with WPTV's investigations team.