A disturbing video (below) of a woman, Amber Swink, securely bound in a restraint chair while being pepper-sprayed by Sgt. Judith Sealey on Nov, 15, 2015, surfaced in September.
Swink was strapped in the chair with a harness at the Montgomery County Jail in Dayton, Ohio, noted The Washington Post.
The video does not include audio, but Swink recalled the deputies at the jail laughed as she struggled in the chair in solitary confinement.
The 25-year-old woman had already been pepper-sprayed once by Sealey before Sealey fired pepper spray at Swink's face in the video.
"It felt like somebody just crushed up fresh peppers and made me use them as face cream," Swink told the newspaper. "It took my breath away. You’re fighting for air. I remember my mouth was filling with a thick slobber, like foaming up — and that was also blocking my airway. I thought I might die."
Montgomery County Sheriff Phil Plummer said that he had not viewed the nearly year-old video, but admitted that Swink was pepper-sprayed while under restraint, which violated his department’s use-of-force protocol.
Plummer refused to allow Sealey to speak to The Washington Post, but said that she was given a "letter of citation" over the incident, which she had "learned from." Plummer also gave her a promotion to captain.
"She is a very good officer, one of the best community officers we have," Plummer stated. "The public loves her. I wish I had 20 of her."
In September, Swink filed a lawsuit against the sheriff’s department in U.S. District Court in Ohio that said the excessive force had "amounted to torture."
The lawsuit also alleges that the sheriff’s department destroyed video evidence of the incident (Swink's lawyers obtained a backup copy) in a cover up.
"We will definitely oppose the lawsuit," Plummer responded. "This isn’t that egregious where she’s walked away with any serious injuries. The officer she spit on should sue her."
Human Rights Watch, an organization that publicizes human rights abuse around the world, noted in a 2015 report:
The European Court of Human Rights has held that, in certain circumstances, the use of chemical spray on a prisoner can constitute inhuman and degrading treatment. Stressing the dangers of chemical spray, the court has emphasized that it should be used only in exceptional circumstances and not in confined spaces. The court was unequivocal that chemical spray "should never be deployed against a prisoner who has been brought under control."
Earlier in the evening of Nov, 15, 2015, Swink had been arrested while drinking heavily inside her home. It's not clear how that was a crime, but her lawsuit admits "she exhibited a belligerent attitude" and tried to kick the officer who arrested her.
Both sides admit that Swink was disruptive in the jail by yelling and hitting a glass part of the cell, which led to Sealey using pepper spray on an unrestrained Swink the first time.
Swink's lawsuit said that she was no longer making noise, but Sealey had her put in a restraint chair and transferred her to solitary confinement.
Swink began shouting after an hour and a half, according to her lawsuit, and soon after, "Defendant Sealey went into Plaintiff Amber Swank’s cell with another can of OC spray and intentionally and maliciously sprayed Plaintiff Amber Swink’s face and body with the OC spray until she became unconscious and suffered permanent, serious, and debilitating injuries."
Swink's lawsuit said that Sealey did not fill out a required use of force report, and Plummer did not force Sealey to do so, which was part of the alleged cover-up.