Hitting and kicking a prone suspect like two Birmingham police officers did after a 2008 multi-city chase violates police policy and training for making arrests, a Birmingham deputy police chief who also is a training officer testified today.
But the use of force in arresting the suspect, Anthony Warren, could be reasonable if the officer perceived both that Warren was armed and desperate and that the force was needed to protect public safety, testified the deputy chief, William Ray Tubbs.
Tubbs’ testimony in U.S. District Court today framed the debate in the trial of the officers, David Doran and Barrett G. Dewitt. Each faces a federal charge of using unreasonable force against Warren, who led police on a 22-minute chase from Birmingham to Hoover and struck a Hoover police officer before losing control of his van.
The officers were fired after patrol-car videotapes of the arrest surfaced during Warren’s prosecution for running over the Hoover officer.
Jurors have viewed the videotapes, which show Dewitt hitting Warren with a baton and Doran punching, kicking and even stepping on the suspect after he had been handcuffed. Warren had been ejected from the van and was lying motionless when the beatings began, the videotapes showed.
Both officers’ actions were contrary to Birmingham police policy and training, Tubbs told a federal prosecutor.
But the officers’ perceptions of the situation are important in assessing is an officer’s actions were reasonable, Tubbs told the defense. Given the circumstances of the chase, an officer could reasonably conclude Warren was armed and dangerous, showed no regard to life or safety and was prepared to escape by any means.
In that situation, “you have to come out of your (patrol) car prepared to deal with a suspect with that mindset,” Tubbs testified. You’re trying to control the situation, for your safety and officers’ safety.”
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Courtesy: The Birmingham News