Meridian Star

October 13, 2013

Termination hearing scheduled for MPD detective

By Brian Livingston /
The Meridian Star

MERIDIAN —     Members of the Meridian Civil Service Commission are expected Nov. 12 to hear arguments in a case involving a former Meridian Police Department detective who was fired in August.

    The hearing is to determine if the MPD and the city had the right to fire Don Hopkins, an 18-year veteran of the MPD, following an incident in which Hopkins is said by the department to have broken 11 policies and procedures concerning pursuit and the use of deadly force.

    Bill Ready Jr. is representing Hopkins in the hearing that is scheduled to take place after the normal commission meeting at Meridian City Hall in downtown.

    "The city said my client broke 11 different rules, regulations and department procedures and we will try to show that he was justified in his actions," Ready said.

    Michael Goggins, who will represent the city of Meridian and the MPD, said he couldn't comment on the upcoming hearing.

    According to records from the Meridian Civil Service Commission, Hopkins is said to have, among other charges, ignored orders to stop the pursuit of a suspect's vehicle, prompting charges of insubordination, and firing his service weapon at a moving vehicle.

    The incident in question occurred on Interstate 20/59 early in the morning of July 17 when Hopkins was reportedly trying to stop and apprehend a suspect allegedly involved in a property crime. The city alleges Hopkins engaged in a pursuit when it was not necessary, failed to cease the pursuit when ordered and after he did eventually stop the pursuit, re-engaged in the chase.

    The city also alleges that Hopkins pursued the suspect in an unmarked unit that was not equipped with sirens. The city said the crime in which the suspect was accused was a property crime, a crime not committed in the presence of Hopkins and therefore not one in which Hopkins was justified in engaging in a pursuit and discharging his weapon. The city also contends that Hopkins had alternative avenues of action he could have taken.

    Hopkins was placed on administrative leave with pay on July 18 and then on July 30 was notified by Lee he was placed on leave without pay pending the outcome of the internal investigation. The city contends in commission documents that Hopkins was not cooperative during the internal investigation. On Aug. 5, Hopkins was notified of his termination and the charges that led to that determination by the city and the MPD.

    In a letter dated Aug. 2, just prior to his termination notice, Hopkins answered the charges against him by writing, "Our policy and procedure allows the use of lethal force when there is a threat of serious bodily injury or death. A motor vehicle used as a battering ram against a person standing directly behind another vehicle has a high risk of serious bodily injury and as such lethal force is justified."

    As for the charges of engaging in a pursuit when one was not warranted, Hopkins states in the letter that he was not the primary pursuit vehicle, that he was supporting another unit. He states in the letter he didn't recall the pursuit being called off by the supervisor.

    "As often happens, the events in the field which require split second decisions in an ever changing environment fraught with danger can easily be over analyzed by those in the comfort of an office after the fact," Hopkins wrote in the letter. "This was a felony pursuit and a felony stop because the subject committed said felony in my presence."