Cop & kid traded threats
A Basalt police officer whose conduct was investigated this spring admitted that he threatened an 18-year-old local man after enduring an intense verbal assault, according to a document obtained by The Aspen Times.A memo written by Sgt. Chris Maniscalchi to Basalt Police Chief Jim Stryker soon after the March 1 incident indicates that Maniscalchi felt he had grounds to arrest Robert Peters during the confrontation, but decided to warn him instead.Peters, who graduated from Basalt High School last month, and his mother, Cheryl Kisow, filed a complaint with the town of Basalt about the confrontation. They claimed Maniscalchi made inappropriate threats that constituted criminal harassment. Kisow said she wanted him fired.Basalt Town Manager Tom Baker responded to the complaint by hiring an outside investigator. Based on that report, Baker and Stryker decided last month that no disciplinary action was warranted against Maniscalchi.The officer has declined to discuss the incident. He said it was a private, personnel issue.The town released his report to Stryker Wednesday, two weeks after The Aspen Times claimed it was a public document. Baker said the time was needed for him to consult with a labor law attorney over what could be released. The town cannot release anything considered part of Maniscalchi’s personnel file.The document was edited to eliminate references to a third party and to incidents that occurred when Peters was a minor, according to Baker.Peters given warningManiscalchi’s report said he stopped Peters for having a defective brake lighting system. A green light went on in the rear window when the brakes were applied.The officer had Peters get out of the car and showed him what the problem was with the light.”At this time I took it upon myself to offer Mr. Peters a word of advice regarding a potential criminal complaint made against him that our office had received earlier on this date,” Maniscalchi’s report said.Kisow told The Aspen Times last month that Maniscalchi accused her son of making threats against a girl who babysat for Maniscalchi. The report didn’t get into those details.Maniscalchi wrote that he told Peters that whatever was going on between him and another student better stop. He noted that Peters had already had scrapes with the law and that another incident might not allow him to continue playing baseball for Basalt High School.”Mr. Peters then became extremely verbally hostile and told me that he `didn’t have to take this shit’ and `I can’t believe you’re harassing me, this is f–ing bullshit.'”Mr. Peters was yelling these statements in a loud voice and waving his arms around in an extremely agitated state,” the report continued. “I then decided that Mr. Peters was too hostile to reason with and that maybe this was not the best approach to take with him and ended the conversation by telling him that if the complainant was harmed in any way that I would make sure that he faced the consequences.”Mr. Peters became even more agitated and demanded my name and I supplied it along with my badge number,” the report said. “As I proceeded to walk back to my patrol vehicle Mr. Peters called me a `dickhead’ and said that he could not believe that he was being harassed and threatened.”Expletive riles copManiscalchi claimed that Peters then asked for his boss’s name and said he would also go to the town mayor with his complaint.”At this time I entered my patrol vehicle and proceeded to drive away,” said Maniscalchi in his report. “As I was driving by Mr. Peters’ vehicle I saw that he was entering into it and I heard him yell in my direction, `You’re a f–ing dick.'”After hearing this expletive I became very angry and felt that his behavior was too disruptive and had gone too far and that Mr. Peters was way out of control, bordering on hysterics and I considered placing him under arrest for disorderly conduct.”Instead, I stopped my vehicle, exited and approached his driver’s window,” Maniscalchi reported. “I told him that if he wanted to cuss at me that he should get out of his vehicle and tell me to my face. Mr. Peters denied cussing at me.”Maniscalchi acknowledged that he again threatened to pursue criminal action against Peters and that he would ticket him and tow his vehicle if he saw the green brake light again. Maniscalchi said he then drove away.Stephenson investigatesBasalt hired former Aspen Police Chief Tom Stephenson to investigate the family’s complaint about the incident.Kisow claimed the investigation was nothing more than one cop covering for another. Stephenson countered that Kisow wouldn’t be happy with anything less than Maniscalchi’s dismissal. That wasn’t warranted, he said.Stephenson said he felt the town government took “appropriate remedies” after the investigation was over.Town Manager Baker said he acted on some of Stephenson’s recommendations.”Tom has made some suggestion about policies and procedures,” said Baker. For example, in the future, if an officer stops someone involved in a matter the cop is personally involved with, they must call for back-up from another officer.In addition, all officers will go through training on how to handle hostile verbal confrontations.”We’re looking for ways to avoid problems, not solve them after they occur,” said Baker.
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