MARK KIESLING: It's all right for county cops to investigate death of one of their own

2012-03-09T00:00:00Z 2012-03-12T20:00:38Z MARK KIESLING: It's all right for county cops to investigate death of one of their own nwitimes.com
March 09, 2012 12:00 am

The tragic loss of a Lake County correctional officer raises some questions as to how an investigation into her death should be properly handled.

Although the hit-and-run happened within the city limits of Crown Point, city police did not investigate or take the initial police report. County police did.

Is it proper for county police to investigate the death of one of their own, or will that present difficulties at the time the case goes to trial?

That case is the death of correctional Officer Britney Meux, 25, of Crown Point, who was struck from behind by a hit-and-run driver Tuesday night. Three other officers who were jogging with her were injured.

There are allegations the driver sped up to hit the four. Jason Cozmanoff, 42, of Lakes of the Four Seasons, whom Lake County Sheriff John Buncich said turned himself in Wednesday, was charged with at least one prior DUI, but that was pleaded down to a public intoxication charge. Cozmanoff was not charged as of Thursday night but was in custody.

Is the very department where the four were employed able to objectively investigate a crime like this? And what a crime it was.

"When it's one of your own, you are going through everything. Nobody wanted to go home," Sheriff John Buncich said.

Don't know. Maybe. Hammond police, for example, investigate shootings by their officers. Their four-member board of captains does the internal investigation.

I think this is clearer. County police turn over shootings to the Indiana State Police, as do most local agencies. But as one cop pointed out to me Thursday, in this case the officers were not suspects but victims.

My take is that whoever is investigating this is going to do a meticulous job. No one wants to foul this thing up just to lose it in court.

I am guessing detectives were grimly pursuing leads in this case and were closing in on a suspect when someone turned himself in.

My feeling is that it was OK for the county to investigate this. After all, who on that department would want to be the person who goofed up and allow the suspect to skate?

The opinions are solely those of the writer. He can be reached at mark.kiesling@nwi.com or (219) 933-4170.

Editor's note: A previous version of this column contained incorrect information about Jason Cozmanoff's prior conviction.

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