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Loveland Police to require training by Alzheimer's Association after excessive force allegation

A lawsuit claims Karen Garner suffered a dislocated shoulder, a broken humerus and a sprained wrist during the June 2020 arrest.

LOVELAND, Colo. — The Loveland Police Department (LPD) will now be requiring officers to complete training on interacting with people with Alzheimer's or any other form of dementia after an alleged incident of excessive force involving a 73-year-old woman surfaced earlier this week.

LPD said that as of Friday, all officers have been assigned a mandatory online training titled 'Approaching Alzheimer's: First Responder Training' offered through the Alzheimer's Association.

The Alzheimer's Association says LPD leadership will get additional training on how to make sure officers keep up with continuing education and why that is important.

"We reached out [to LPD] when we saw the video," said Amelia Schafer, the executive director of the Alzheimer’s Association of Colorado. "Obviously, our first thought was, our hearts just go out to Ms. Garner and this family, and our second thoughts were, what can we do to be a part of the solution?"

The training is free and offered to any police department that wants to provide it to their officers.

"[It's important to] understand that people [with dementia and Alzheimer's Disease] have good days and bad days, understand that when people are under stress they actually probably have a harder time following commands, following directions, and communicating verbally," Schafer said. "Those things are all important because this situation potentially could have been prevented."

A  Loveland attorney filed a federal civil rights lawsuit on behalf of Karen Garner, the woman in the body camera footage that was posted on the department's Facebook page. The lawsuit alleges that she was injured after being forced to the ground by a Loveland Police officer nearly a year ago.

The lawsuit suggests Garner, who has dementia, attempted to leave a Walmart with less than $14 worth of items she forgot to purchase. A statement from Walmart indicates that police were called only after Garner became "physical" with an associate. 

“Ms. Garner, unable to communicate with them or fully grasp what was going on, then walked out of the store and began walking the short distance back to her home,” it says.  

RELATED: Loveland police promise investigation after video shows elderly woman forced to the ground by officers

The department was responding to a shoplifting call, according to LPD. The department could not say whether they were told about Garner's mental condition.

The lawsuit says Garner suffered a dislocated shoulder, a broken humerus and a sprained wrist during the arrest which happened not long after she left the store.

The arrest, captured on an officer’s body camera, repeatedly shows Garner saying, “I’m going home” to the arresting officer.

She was two blocks away from her home.

> Below: Body camera footage shows the arrest of the 73-year-old. This footage has been edited by the law firm representing Garner. (Warning: The content in this video is graphic and may be disturbing to some viewers.)

According to LPD, the incident took place on June 26, 2020, but said until now; they had not received a complaint regarding "serious injuries" to Garner.

Since learning of the lawsuit and allegations in it late Wednesday, LPD said they'd begun an investigation that will include "an examination of all images, documents and records" compiled in connection with the incident.

LPD also said Friday that the department has two practitioners that are assigned to help patrol officers in crisis situations through a partnership with Summit Stone Health. In an emailed statement, the department said "whenever a mental health issue is even remotely suspected in a call for service, the Summit Stone practitioners are notified and expected to respond." They were not called in Garner's case.

LPD told 9NEWS 90% of their sworn officers have completed 40 hours of crisis intervention training through a program sponsored by the National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI).

The non-profit's director, Ray Merenstein, said he looks forward to the department adding more specific training on Alzheimer's and dementia.

"We cannot simulate every single situation and the number of diseases and disorders," Merenstein said. "Is it nighttime, is it daytime? Is there fog, is there not fog? Is the person elderly, is the person young. We're going to give them the tools for how to respond to mental illness or substance use disorder, the Alzheimer's Association gives them the tools for how to respond to dementia." 

The arresting officer has been on administrative leave pending the outcome of the investigation, according to LPD. An officer who assisted with the arrest and the on-scene supervisor have both been reassigned to administrative duties.

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This story draws on previous reporting from Chris Vanderveen.

Contact 9NEWS reporter Matt Jablow with tips about this or any story: matt.jablow@9news.com.You can also send tips to blowthewhistle@9news.com. 

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