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LCW Successfully Upholds A Peace Officer’s Termination For Dishonesty And Excessive Force
LCW Partner Jennifer Rosner and Associate Attorney Danny Ivanov succeeded in upholding a county’s termination of a peace officer. The officer was accused of using excessive force during a pursuit and subsequently lying about his actions in both his supplemental police report and investigative interview.
The case began on May 5, 2020, when a passenger in a vehicle involved in a pursuit fled the vehicle. After deputies apprehended the fleeing passenger-suspect, the officer kicked the suspect’s head and the left side of his body. When the suspect turned his head, the officer then kicked him three more times in the face. The officer later placed his knee on the suspect’s head. When the suspect cried out in pain, the officer slapped him and said: “Shut up, shut your mouth.” The officer’s force caused bleeding and facial fractures that required medical attention. The officer filed a supplemental report that falsely indicated he kicked the suspect four to five times in the arm, shoulder, and upper torso, and not the head and face.
The arbitrator found that the preponderance of the evidence indicated that the officer’s use of force was inappropriate, unnecessary, and unreasonable. The kicks to the face and head were unreasonable because they were not applied to arrest, prevent escape, or overcome resistance. The arbitrator rejected the officer’s claims that he did not intend to kick the suspect in the face or head, and that he did not recall kneeling on the suspect’s head. The arbitrator cited the U.S. Supreme Court’s decision in Graham v. Connor, 490 US 386 (1989), in deciding it was irrelevant whether the officer used force in good faith or maliciously. In Graham, the Court determined that an objective reasonableness standard applied to a civilian’s claim that law enforcement officials used excessive force when making an arrest.
The arbitrator also found that the officer had acted dishonestly by not properly documenting his use of force and by omitting relevant information pertaining to where the officer applied the force on the suspect’s body. The arbitrator noted that regardless of the officer’s intentions, he still misrepresented and omitted information concerning the incident, which violated the department’s policy against dishonesty.