Langley Police Chief David Marks has been terminated, Mayor Tim Callison announced at a City Council meeting Monday evening.
“It is a very difficult decision to make,” he told the council. “As a civil service employee, (Marks) is entitled to a civil service hearing and appeal. He’s indicated he will appeal.”
In an interview, Callison added: “As of this morning, Chief Marks was put on administrative leave with pay, relieved of duty and told to go home.”
The mayor said he based his decision on many factors, not just the November 2017 incident when Marks is accused of unnecessary force while arresting a mentally ill man. That incident led to several investigations after two officers responding to Marks’ back-up call reported he used excessive use of force.
Many residents came forward in recent months with stories of their own of Marks’ alleged unprofessional conduct, bullying tactics and tendency to lie when confronted about his behavior.
But some business owners and others stood up for Marks, saying they appreciated his professionalism.
“It caused me to look at all performance of duties,” Callison said of his review. “It came to lead me to the conclusion that it should lead toward termination.”
“Chief Marks was put on paid leave to preserve due process,” he said in an interview.
An acting chief of police has not been named.
As mayor, Callison oversees all heads of departments, including the chief of police.
Marks, who led the four-person department for four years, claims that the trespassing suspect was resisting arrest and threw himself to the ground during the Nov. 20, 2017 incident.
Deputy Thomas Brewer of the Island County Sheriff’s Office and Langley Police Officer Mason Shoudy, who responded to the scene, alleged that Marks used unnecessary and aggressive force when handcuffing the suspect, Camren Procopio, causing him to fall face first on the ground.
Washington State Patrol detectives conducted a criminal investigation.
That investigation was reviewed by Island County Prosecutor Greg Banks. He concluded that a jury would be unlikely to convict Marks of gross misdemeanor assault.
But in his analysis, Banks rejected Marks’ contention that Procopio threw himself to the ground.
“Based on the aggressive tenor of the entire contact and the observations by the two officers, I conclude that it is highly unlikely that Mr. Procopio was responsible for his fall,” Banks wrote.
In a six-page memorandum, Banks wrote that although Marks’ behavior didn’t meet criminal standards, it didn’t meet expected standards of law enforcement officers, either.
Mayor Callison then hired an outside expert to determine if Marks violated city police policy.
Use-of-force expert Glen Carpenter stated in a 45-page review that Marks didn’t apply excessive force or violate local law enforcement policy.
Marks was sworn in as the city’s chief of police June 2, 2014 after acting as interium chief.
Two years later, he was honored by a different mayor and city council for a decade of service and commitment to community policing.
However, a different picture emerged this spring.
Like a slow-moving tsunami led by citizen blogs and public rebuke at council meetings, Marks ability to remain Langley’s top cop was called into question.
City council members said they were swamped with emails from concerned residents with anecdotal stories of strong-arming tactics; many said they wanted anonymity because of retaliation fears.
Some claimed the mayor couldn’t deliver a fair administrative decision because of his friendship with the police chief.
Resident Sharon Emerson, who wrote extensively about the Marks controversy on her blog, LangleyAmusings, called for Callison to recuse himself from any administrative action regarding Marks based on the city’s code of ethics.
She lost to Callison in a bid for mayor in 2015.
“When you let someone go, that’s often just the beginning of the process,” Emerson said during public comments at Monday’s meeting.
“There’s evidence of bias and even friendship with Chief Marks,” she said.
In a June 11 email to council member Christy Korrow that Emerson published on her blog, Callison wrote,” I am having many sleepless nights over this issue. I agree that the issue of the community confidence may be missing forever. That may be one of the key issues that informs my final administrative findings and decision.”
Callison also wrote he was remaining neutral “out of respect to Dave’s rights” and until a use of force analysis was complete and “all facts are determined.”
Callison wrote that he took the allegations seriously enough that he requested the Washington State Patrol to investigate.
“However, I will not be pressured by a small angry mob to take action that violates individual rights and respect for process and/or puts the City at risk for potentially costly lawsuits.”
At the Monday meeting, Korrow said Callison overcame any bias with his decision to terminate Marks.
“I think he showed there is no conflict of interest,” Korrow said, “with the courage shown to make a decision with someone he does have a relationship with.”
Earlier in the day, the city council met in a morning workshop to begin reviewing current police policy.
Council members narrowed their focus to examining current complaint mechanisms; gathering input from other cities that have updated police policy and developing a community survey on local law enforcement.
Restoring trust in local government and law enforcement is a top priority.
“We have to build that trust, we have to acknowledge it,” said council member Ursula Shoudy. “It’s our job to build up the trust again.”