- July 30, 2009
The state attorney’s office will receive today the criminal investigation into a Sarasota police officer who was caught kicking a handcuffed man on tape.
It will be up to the state attorney whether to file any charges in the incident.
City Manager Bob Bartolotta held a press conference today expressing his displeasure with the way the incident was handled.
“I’m not happy with the activities,” he said. “Mistakes were made.”
Officer Christopher Childers arrested 21-year-old Juan Perez June 26 on charges of disorderly intoxication and obstructing an officer without violence.
Surveillance video at the sheriff’s office Ringling Avenue booking facility shows Perez apparently climbing out of Childers’ vehicle and falling on the ground. Childers then stands over Perez with one foot on his chest. As Perez tries to get up, Childers appears to kick him twice in the chest and knocks him back to the ground.
Childers then again stands over Perez with a foot on his chest, while at least two other law enforcement officers watch what’s happening.
The written reports from Childers and a backup officer do not match the video, Bartolotta said. The reports did not mention the kicking or stepping on Perez’s chest.
Bartolotta said if a sheriff’s office employee did not call the police department’s shift commander, Lt. Kenneth Rainey, June 27 to report the video, no one would have known that the incident happened.
Nevertheless, it took a week for Rainey to tell Police Chief Peter Abbott about the incident. Bartolotta said that was because although Rainey asked for a copy of the video immediately, it took a week to receive that copy.
The failure of Rainey to start an investigation the moment he received the call from the sheriff’s office and the lack of properly documented events were two of the mistakes Bartolotta cited.
Also under investigation is the investigation itself and the way risk management responded to the incident.
The police detective investigating Childers’ actions, Sgt. Kenneth Castro, was also placed in charge of interpreting for Perez, who speaks little English, and with brokering a deal to give him $400 in exchange for waiving his right to sue.
“The police department should not have been involved with risk management,” Bartolotta said.
Abbott asked a city risk-management employee, Larry Hobbs, to get involved.
Bartolotta said Hobbs’ erred in not telling his superiors, including Bartolotta, about the $400 payment.
“It’s not unusual for (Hobbs) to settle fender benders,” Bartolotta said. “He should have seen this was not a fender bender. The chief made an error in asking Hobbs to settle it.”
As a result of the mistakes he cited, Bartolotta is ordering a list of remedial actions be taken. They include:
•Disciplinary action taken against Childers, Rainey, Hobbs and possibly others.
•A review by a yet-unnamed expert on police practices to review all internal affairs investigations involving use of force; recommend procedures on how to handle future cases; recommend future police training; and review investigation procedures.
•Requesting an outside agency to conduct all investigations concerning police personnel during the next three months.
•The police department will not be involved in risk-management activities for the next three months.
Bartolotta said he didn’t want this one incident to reflect poorly on the police department. “We have an excellent police department,” he said. “We have some management errors here, not problems concerning officers. We cannot have a lack of confidence in the police department.”