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Winnemucca Officer Acquitted of Battery Charges

Posted on Wednesday, January 01, 1997 at 12:00PM

Peter Hoyle worked as a police officer for nearly 20 years at the time he was terminated by the City of Ukiah. His work evaluations were excellent. His credentials unquestioned.

However, the local newspaper began publishing critical comments about him after he was required to use his sidearm to stop a drug suspect who was attacking his partner with a broad sword. That action, along with his high activity level and work with the Mendocino County drug task force drew the ire of the local defense bar and further negative publicity.

In March 1995, after returning to patrol duties, Hoyle was dispatched to a loud party call. While at the apartment, the officer backing him up was threatened by one of the occupants and forced to initiate an arrest.

After Hoyle helped handcuff the subject all the occupants of the apartment, including the suspect’s two brothers, came out and challenged the officers. Hoyle turned his attention to the crowd while the other officer attempted, without success, to remove the arrestee from the scene.

The arrestee resisted and the other officer was compelled to use his OC spray and take the subject to the ground. The subject was injured in the takedown.

The following week, two of the people in the apartment went to the police station and verbally complained about the actions of the other officer. No complaint was made against Hoyle and no action was taken by the department.

Four months later one of the individuals sent a written complaint to the department. The complaint not only alleged that the other officer used excessive force, but also alleged for the first time that Hoyle struck her boyfriend with a baton. The boyfriend said he did not remember the incident because he was too drunk.

During the department’s investigation a number of witnesses contradicted the allegations. In October 1995, the department issued its written decision that the complaint was unfounded.

The person arrested at the party went to trial in December 1995. Hoyle testified during the trial that he did not strike anyone with his baton. The arrestee was convicted of violating Penal Code Section 148, but the conviction was set aside by the court because the tape recording of the trial was defective.

Following the trial, the chief of police was called by a newspaper reporter who claimed that Hoyle lied in his testimony. The reporter’s source of information was the woman that had lodged the earlier complaints. The chief responded by placing Officer Hoyle on administrative leave and by ordering another investigation.

The same witnesses were again interviewed and again gave the same statements. However, the second time around, the chief recommended Hoyle’s termination for lying during the trial.

The chief’s recommendation was accepted by the city manager and Hoyle was terminated. No action was taken against the other officer.

The termination was appealed to the city’s Civil Service Board. Following a three day hearing, the board reversed the termination and directed Hoyle’s reinstatement with full back pay and benefits. The Commission deliberated less than 30 minutes in reaching its unanimous decision that the allegations of untruthfulness were not supported by the evidence.

Hoyle was represented in the administrative investigation and at the appeal hearing by LDF panel attorney John Shields of Santa Rosa.

PORAC Legal Defense Administrator Ed Fishman Testimony: Law Enforcement Use of Body Cameras.