The Warsaw police chief apologized twice Friday to the couple involved in a Jan. 25 incident.

City officials also revealed that two WPD officers are on “paid investigatory leave” pending an investigation related to the incident.

WPD Chief Scott Whitaker, Mayor Joe Thallemer and city attorney Scott Reust held a press conference Friday afternoon to discuss the incident and answer questions. They said officers’ body cam footage, the 911 Dispatch audio recording, Indiana State Police news release and Whitaker’s report on the incident would be on the city’s website  (www.warsaw.in.gov) by the end of the day Friday.

On Jan. 25, Whitaker, who was off duty and in his personal vehicle, said he was almost run off the road by what he thought was an impaired driver. He followed the driver to her home, staying on the phone with Central Dispatch. The woman exited the vehicle and went inside the home. Her husband came out to put the vehicle in the garage, leading Whitaker to believe the husband was the driver.

Whitaker told the husband not to enter the vehicle and detained him until other officers arrived. Whitaker reported he held the man’s shoulders and the man dropped to his knees after his knees buckled.

Since the incident, allegations have been made against Whitaker, including that he used excessive force against the 74-year-old man and violated Indiana law.

Thallemer began Friday’s press conference by recounting what occurred Jan. 25.





“Concerned that the driver was impaired, (Whitaker) realized that because he was off duty, the appropriate response was to request officers who were on duty handle the incident. He immediately called Central Dispatch on his phone to request their immediate assistance,” Thallemer said.

While waiting for assistance, Whitaker went into “surveillance mode” and maintained continuous phone contact with Central Dispatch to keep them apprised of the location of the suspect who continued driving “dangerously and erratically,” Thallemer said.

“Only after a driver attempted to enter the car, now parked at an unknown residence, did Chief Whitaker feel compelled to intervene,” Thallemer concluded.

Whitaker said he appreciated the mayor giving him an opportunity to make a statement on the incident.

“As you know, with most police matters, our investigations or reviews are limited in what we can share and the statements we can make,” he said, noting that his report on the incident was previously released.

He said that on Feb. 7 Thallemer notified him of allegations stemming from the incident. He provided his incident report to Thallemer and Reust. They also reviewed the video and the dispatch call. The following day, in an effort to be transparent and because the police chief was involved, the decision was made to have the Indiana State Police review the allegations, he said.

The couple involved have not filed a complaint.

Whitaker said that on Feb. 8 the ISP agreed to review the incident, and a tenured ISP captain that Whitaker didn’t know did the review.

“The captain concluded the review, met with Prosecutor (Dan) Hampton with his findings and there was no need for further investigation based upon his findings,” Whitaker said. A press release stating that was sent out; it also said the ISP’s involvement was concluded.

Whitaker’s 13-minute call to Central Dispatch was played at Friday’s press conference.

At the start of the call, Whitaker says he is following an impaired driver. He requests for dispatch to “get somebody here quick.” At the end of the recording, there’s a faint conversation between Whitaker and the woman.

After the audio was played, Whitaker said, “If you listen to the audio, my conversation with the dispatch, there was significant amount of dangerous driving; driving behavior that from my experience as a law enforcement officer, was that of somebody that was impaired.”

He then read a prepared statement.

“I did what I could to have a uniform officer arrive to conduct the investigation. I did not want to engage the driver while off duty and not in uniform,” he said, noting he’s been an officer for over 20 years. “I know it’s much better to have a uniform officer deal with impaired drivers. I weighed this against my concern that an impaired driver would get back in the vehicle and continue driving.”

Upon arriving in the couple’s driveway, he said his intention was to engage in conversation with the driver of the vehicle.

“In my line of work, things happen quickly, and such was this incident,” he said.

Believing that the man was the impaired driver and that he was going to get back in the vehicle, Whitaker said he “took action” as described in his police report. Officers from Warsaw, Winona Lake and the Kosciusko County Sheriff’s Office responded.

“I’d like to make a public apology to the gentleman I detained. At the time, I believed he had been operating a vehicle while impaired, that I had to prevent him from getting back into that said vehicle. Shortly into the investigation, I learned I was wrong ... he was not the driver,” Whitaker said.

He said the driver was the wife and she was able to give in detail where she had driven. Whitaker said it was determined she was not impaired but was a bad night driver.

“I apologized that night to both he and his wife,” Whitaker said, adding that all the officers thought the matter was concluded.

“I’d like to apologize again to the gentleman and his wife, that they have to continue to deal with the additional attention regarding this incident that’s been brought to their door. Again, they did not file a complaint, they have not made a complaint. These allegations did not stem from these individuals,” Whitaker said

Reust said he was notified of the concern Feb. 7 and he met with Thallemer and Whitaker Feb. 8 to discuss the incident. They decided to contact the ISP. On Feb. 12, he said he and Thallemer met with the ISP Area 2 captain to discuss the incident. Reust said Whitaker wanted to disclose the 911 call and body cam footage as soon as possible, but “the protocol in these kind of investigations are that that stuff cannot be released to the public because there is an open investigation.”

He also spoke about an internal investigation in WPD. “I can confirm that there are two officers that are on paid investigatory leave; however, due to protocol we cannot comment additionally on that.”

Asked if the internal investigation was on two officers who took their concerns about the  Whitaker incident to city councilmen, Reust responded said it wasn’t appropriate to comment on that while the investigation is ongoing so that it was fair to everyone involved.

Thallemer said he was thankful that Whitaker took action to protect the safety of that driver and the motoring public. He said Whitaker did the right thing and he supported his actions.

“I’m just thankful we’re not sitting up here talking about a whole lot worse in regards to someone getting hurt,” Thallemer said.

Asked why there was a delay between the Jan. 25 incident and the report being written Jan. 31, Whitaker said he wouldn’t say there was a delay.

“I’m an administrator, not an officer, but I can tell you that was on a Friday evening so the following Monday I pulled the dispatch audio and by Wednesday I had the in-car video. I used those collectively with my knowledge of the incident to create the incident report,” he said.

An anonymous letter was sent to community leaders with concerns about Whitaker and the incident. The first concern in the letter stated that Whitaker attempted to make an OWI arrest while out of uniform, which is illegal under Indiana Code 9-30-2-2.

“An officer who is not in uniform or in a fully marked vehicle is not legally allowed to make a traffic stop,”?Reust said. “If so, then all the evidence from the traffic stop is suppressed. This (incident) would not be a traffic stop because the vehicle had already stopped and the driver and the passengers were out of the vehicle. ... They stopped themselves.”

Reust said it would be more fair to characterize the incident as an investigatory stop, which he’s allowed to do.

In footage from one body cam, the man says he was shoved. The anonymous letter also states Whitaker “used more force than was necessary.” At one point, the man was on his knees in the cold while Whitaker waited for more police to arrive, and there was some concern about how long the man was on his knees.

“He was on his knees, I would just say a couple minutes, maybe two to three minutes. I can’t see it being longer than that,” Whitaker said.

“The amount of force I use is what I believe to be enough to actually accomplish what I needed to, which is to simply slide him, maneuver him in front of the driver door. Unfortunately for me, his knees gave out and he went to the ground. Only his knees,” Whitaker said, which at the time led Whitaker to further believe the man was impaired.

As for the man saying he was shoved, Whitaker said, “I can’t say as to how he perceived it, but my perception was I grabbed him by each shoulder and then maneuvered him, slid him over, and then he went to the ground.”

Asked if there was anything he wished he had done differently, Whitaker said, “I do wish I had information to me as far as from dispatch, I wish communication could have been better. I wish the officers would have arrived sooner. But those are things we can work on. ... I feel bad that I ended up accusing the wrong individual, no doubt about it. I’m publicly acknowledging that, but to say I would do it any differently, it would be no.”