The Department’s announcement follows a months-long administrative leave without pay and a convoluted path to conviction for Officer Jaeger, who is appealing the judgement against him.
In line with Department protocol, Jaeger filed a use-of-force report after the incident in question. Jaeger’s submission was reviewed by Lieutenant Tony Newberry, Corporal Chris Huber, and Captain Victor Mitchell, all of whom found the officer’s actions were justified by the situation.
Subsequently, Newberry forwarded the review to Chief Brackney via internal memo. Brackney did not contest the submitted analysis.
Following Chief Brackney’s inaction, the incident was put to rest until revived by a retired local attorney who brought concerns directly to Brackney. An internal investigation was re-opened, and after initially being cleared, Officer Jaeger was charged with a crime by the Charlottesville Police Department working in conjunction with the Charlottesville Commonwealth’s Attorney.
During Jaeger’s trial, Lieutenant Newberry testified that Jaeger’s actions were reasonable and discerningly preemptive given the setting:
“After seeing the escalation of the situation, it appears far more reasonable that Officer Jaeger reacted so quickly to remove the suspect from the heated area.”
“Failure to do so could have led to a violent encounter between the suspect and other individuals.”
Newberry also elaborated on the situational nature of using “force”:
“I think the initial call for service was domestic related, which when I look at use of force or a response to resistance, I have to look at the totality of the circumstances. I have to take into effect things like Graham v. Connor, reasonableness, and again, the totality. So what was the entire call. What was going on. So the underlying call is domestic. Those can be more violent in nature.”
“You do sometimes use your surroundings based on officer safety and different ways of dealing with someone. In a scenario like this, and what my recommendation was when I wrote it, was that he escorted the suspect to the barrier—it was not a wall but a barrier wrapped around the garbage area—and used that as a way to stabilize the person, gain control of the person while he could handcuff him and another officer could come assist.”
In a further line of court questioning, Newberry was asked to clarify that in the course of their review of Jaeger’s report, he and his superiors found no policy violations on Jaeger’s part:
Question: “Now this report here is to Captain Mitchell and Chief Brackney from you?”
Question: “And did you find any violations of policy on Mr. Jaeger’s behalf in that incident?” (in reference to the submitted report)
Answer: “I did not.”
Citing a discretionary exemption, the Charlottesville Police Department has refused multiple requests to release corresponding body camera video from Jaeger and other attending officers.
Jaeger’s court appeal likely will be heard in coming months.