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Posted on: February 20, 2020

National Police Foundation Report & Arcata Police Department Updates

David Josiah Lawson photo from JusticeforJosiahLawson.com

The National Police Foundation (NPF) has completed its independent review of the Arcata Police Department’s (APD) response to the homicide of David Josiah Lawson and released its final report. 

“The NPF review and analysis took a considerable amount of time, and the recommendations contained in the report will draw new attention to this unresolved case and assist the Police Department with implementing changes that will continue to serve our community well into the future,” said Arcata Mayor Michael Winkler of the report. 

“It was important to us, and to our community, that this report be released in full. The purpose of this analysis is to identify current best practices in policing to strengthen the service we provide. Transparency is crucial to maintain building relationships between community members and our Police Department and for making continuous improvements,” said Arcata City Manager Karen Diemer of the report’s release. 

The 65-page report focuses on the first 72 hours of the Arcata Police Department’s investigation of the homicide and several months following. This report contains 36 recommendations for the Police Department to implement.  

Recommendations suggested by the NPF review team include making improvements to police training, organizational leadership, planning, supervision and to include contingencies for responding to large-scale incidents. While acknowledging that first responders should initially focus on life saving efforts as occurred in this incident, the review team also identified issues and areas for the APD to improve upon, such as utilizing additional management oversight for preliminary and ongoing investigations of violent crimes. 

The review team noted that 22 public safety members from multiple agencies throughout the region responded to Arcata to assist the APD during the initial response to this incident. The NPF is a proponent of collaboration and encouraged the City’s regional public safety partners to continue to work together on cases that require significant resources. This type of response provides the base for enhanced coordination in the future.         

Following the time period reviewed by the NPF, the City hired out-of-area career homicide detectives to review and build the investigative case submitted to the District Attorney in November 2018, and in February 2019, a Criminal Grand Jury declined to indict any individual based on their review of the case. 

This case remains an open investigation for the Arcata Police Department which is committed to solving the case, bringing justice and holding those responsible accountable.

A $55,000 reward for information directly leading to the arrest and conviction of the person responsible for the April 15, 2017 homicide of David Josiah Lawson has been established. Community members have donated $26,000 to a fund held by the City of Arcata, and an additional $30,000 is held by the Lawson Family. If more than one person provides identical information, the reward will be equally divided.

Anyone with information regarding the murder of David Josiah Lawson is encouraged to call the APD’s 24-hour confidential tip-line at 707-825-2590 or the APD Dispatch Center at 707-822-2424.

 A copy of the National Police Foundation report can be found here.

The Arcata Police Department is working to address and incorporate each of the National Police Foundation recommendations through operational and structural changes within the Department.

Click here to read APD’s March 2020 National Police Foundation Update.

Click here to read APD’s April 2020 National Police Foundation Update.

The Arcata City Council has recognized the opportunity to re-imagine policing in Arcata and requested a discussion on necessary public safety reforms to insure fair and impartial policing is practiced in Arcata. On Wednesday, June 17, 2020, Arcata Police Chief Brian Ahearn presented his summary of the Arcata Police Department’s approach to a number of key issues currently being discussed across the nation.

Please click here to see the full report, view the City Council meeting and to review a summary of frequently asked topics regarding Arcata Police Department’s law enforcement practices.