It is not uncommon for people arrested for crimes to make accusations against law enforcement agencies. We have a civil court system to address those concerns. On Tuesday, a federal jury determined an Ada County Sheriff’s Office deputy did not use excessive force when arresting Adam T. Saetrum on a drug delivery charge in 2013.
The trial lasted six days, but it only took the jury 45 minutes to reject Saetrum’s claim. Saetrum claimed he was hit by a patrol car on purpose during his arrest. The jury determined the car never hit Saetrum at all.
While the fact the case went to trial in the first place is a surprise, the speedy verdict was not. We’ve also known since the day of the incident our deputies did everything the right way.
Unfortunately for Sgt. Jake Vogt and the rest of the Ada County Sheriff’s Office, Tuesday’s verdict can’t change the fact that irresponsible reporting, editing, and presentation by the Idaho Statesman has already caused damage that cannot be undone.
For example, using the words “police brutality” in multiple headlines, when no such thing occurred, is bias. Headlines that say mediation “failed” gives the false impression we would have accepted anything other than Saetrum dropping his suit.
Federal courts rejected every claim Saetrum made about his arrest in 2013 except one. The court determined a jury could hear evidence for Saetrum’s claim that he was purposefully hit by a patrol car as he tried to avoid arrest.
Yet the Statesman continued to include unsubstantiated claims made by Saetrum about the arrest in their stories – claims the court dismissed.
Now that the only suit of several to make it to a courtroom is over, and every claim Saetrum made has been dismissed by the courts or rejected by a jury of his peers, where is the relief for Sgt. Vogt, who did his job that day exactly the way we expect?
He and the rest of the deputies involved in Saetrum’s arrest deserve praise. Sgt. Vogt has spent the last two decades working every day to make Ada County a safer place for all of us to live, work, and play. He is an outstanding deputy and fine man.
A civil suit is not a criminal case, where rules like probable cause require strict evidence needed to make a claim of fact. That is why responsible news organizations use caution when writing stories about civil suits. There are repeated instances where Saetrum’s claims are given the weight of fact.
We understand that our employees are subject to public scrutiny. That is part of the job. The public deserves the facts, and I am thankful the verdict supports the truth.