OGDEN — The Ogden Police Department has concluded its investigation into a “mistaken identity incident” and the city administration is recommending changes to its arrest-warrant policy.
The report found no violation of policy, but calls for changes in policy.
Police Chief Mike Ashment apologized publicly within days of the Dec. 20 mishap where a warrant was served on the wrong home at 2 a.m., frightening a young family.
Ashment ordered an internal investigation, with Mayor Mike Caldwell requesting it be done by an assistant chief. The report was concluded Tuesday, with Ashment and the mayor releasing a press release and summary in the afternoon.
“Based on the recent police report on the mistaken-identity incident we will make changes to our arrest-warrant policy and procedure, ensuring officers are making use of available resources and verifying addresses on arrest warrants,” said Caldwell.
“Officers will also be required to weigh the public safety threat of the wanted person and the risk of serving the warrant during nighttime hours.”
Changes will also include strict guidelines for warrants served after 10 p.m., such as background and address verification checks before officers can make contact at a residence.
Also, the watch commander, or duty lieutenant — the ranking officer on duty after 10 p.m. — is to be consulted before any warrants are served after 10 p.m.
“In response to the incident, Ogden police thoroughly reviewed policies from 11 agencies within Utah and seven agencies outside the state,” Caldwell said.
“We found our policies regarding the serving of arrest warrants are consistent with the policies and best practices studied. Nevertheless, we think that policy improvements can be made to increase safety for our citizens and officers.”
On the morning of Dec. 20, Ogden police received a message from the U.S. Army. It contained a felony no-bond arrest warrant for Derek Billmire for being absent without leave, according to the press release. Utah State law and Ogden Police policy states that felony warrants may be served any time, day or night.
“Officers followed both state law and agency protocol when they arrived at the listed address on the warrant and came in contact with Hill, who resembled Billmire,” Caldwell said. “Once Hill produced identification, the officers explained how they came upon the address, apologized to Hill and his family and then left the residence.”
Caldwell continued, “We are deeply sorry for any fear or unintentional stress the Hill family felt and have offered our sincere apologies. The primary goal of our officers and my administration is to keep the public and our police officers safe. These changes will allow us to continually improve on that goal.”
Billmire was later located in Harrisville, taken into custody and booked into the Weber County Jail and later released to the custody of the U.S. Army to resolve the charges.
The police department has made several attempts to speak with Eric Hill and his wife following the incident, but they are currently refusing to cooperate with the investigation.The report notes some differences in accounts between the officers and the Hills.
The Hills claim the six officers carried three rifles and two shotguns. The report counts three rifles and one shotgun, with the shotgun loaded with non-lethal bean-bag rounds.
The Hills also said no apologies were offered and a senior officer upon leaving the residence noted that if Hill had answered the door with a firearm, officers would have “wasted him” or “blown him away.”
The report denies any officer made such a remark and said officers were apologetic, even making efforts to calm the Hill’s two children, daughters aged 4 and 10.