The Atlanta Police Department suspended an officer for 20 days after he hit a suspect in the face while trying to put handcuffs on him (video below).
On June 22, officer Quinton Green allegedly hit suspect Rickey Williams in the face while arresting him. Black Lives Matter of Greater Atlanta posted cellphone video of the incident on its Facebook on June 22 and included a quote from Sir Maejor, president of the group:
Black men aren't safe in Atlanta. This is what I call a #BlueOnBlackCrime, as an organization, we stand against police brutality regardless the color of the officer. We now hereby DEMAND an internal investigation and will aggressively seek the immediate TERMINATION and expect CRIMINAL CHARGES to be filed against the officer in question.
The video went viral and generated outrage.
The Atlanta Police Department suspended Green, and Atlanta Police Chief Erika Shields released a statement following the announcement of the officer's suspension, notes WXIA:
...I believe the manner in which the incident unfolded was avoidable, as the officer was not alone and had appropriate backup, allowing him to take a different approach to the arrest. That being said, having served as a street-level cop, I know from experience that mistakes are made when split second decisions are made.
The officer has accepted responsibility for his actions, and will receive a 20-day suspension. Further, the department will examine the practices of the unit as a whole, and ensure that adequate supervision is in place. Additional training will be required of all officers assigned to the zones who work in a plain clothes capacity to ensure that we are operating in a defensible space.
In the brief video, four Atlanta cops are on the scene, including Green who is on top of Williams delivering the blows.
According to Green's police report, the officers thought Williams was "possibly preparing to smoke crack cocaine," reports The Atlanta Journal-Constitution. Green noted that he discovered some steel wool that is commonly used by crack cocaine users, but did not find any drugs or smoking devices. Police charged Williams with obstruction.
Criminal defense lawyer Page Pate weighed in on the incident with WXIA:
Police officers have a legal right to use force to make an arrest if the arrest is lawful. But they can only use so much force as is required to make an arrest. Anything additional -- punches to the face like we saw that in that video - may be excessive if it's not absolutely necessary to arrest the person.
They had the guy on the ground. He may not have completely been complying with all of their requests, but they had him completely under control. He posed a danger to no one. From what I saw in the video, the officer was acting with excessive force. It did not appear he was trying to get away from the officers and it certainly didn't appear he was trying to harm them.
Bill McKenney, a former police officer who is now a lawyer, shared his take on the video:
If you look closely the suspect already has a handcuff on, and already broken away from one of the officers who has pinned him down. You know there is a handcuff on him; you know he is resisting what I consider is reasonable force to make him comply.
Once the suspect became active, that officer was allowed to use reasonable force. He did not club him; he did not kick him. He used what is taught in the academy, which is a closed slap, to get compliance. It’s a form of pain compliance and I didn't see unreasonable force.