Columbus denies officers used excessive force in 2017 arrest
COLUMBUS, Ohio (AP) — Columbus police officers acted properly when they arrested a man last year wanted on warrants for violent crimes including assaulting an officer, the city said in response to a lawsuit claiming the man’s civil rights were violated.
The city also denied allegations that officers tried to block bystanders from filming the September arrest of Timothy Davis in a convenience store.
The city acknowledged remarks by an officer at the scene were “inappropriate” but said the officer wasn’t involved in the arrest and added: “Inappropriate comments are not the basis for any state of federal liability.”
“I’m going to choke the life out of you,” the officer said at one point, referring to how he would have handled the arrest.
Police chief Kimberly Jacobs later said she was appalled by the comments and temporarily pulled the officer from patrol duties.
The city also denied allegations that Davis couldn’t breathe, and acknowledged having to use a stun gun to bring Davis under control.
“Officers were required to employ force against Davis in order to secure his arrest,” the city said in a Jan. 9 court filing.
Cellphone video of Davis’ arrest showed officers struggling to subdue him and eventually punching and kicking him. Afterward, police spokesman Sgt. Dean Worthington said use of force depends on a suspect’s behavior and police policy does allow for punching and kicking.
Davis’ lawsuit also alleges a lack of police training and supervision when it comes to use of force and says Columbus doesn’t punish overly violent officers, instead conducting “sham Internal Affairs investigations,” claims denied by the city.
The lawsuit dropped broader allegations that police routinely violate residents’ civil rights, and particularly those of black residents, as an earlier version of Davis’ lawsuit claimed.
The city’s approach to policing and the demands on officers have been subject to debate in recent months.
Columbus saw a record 143 homicides last year. In response, the city announced Wednesday an additional $2 million to pay for 30 more police recruits this year along with neighborhood safety programs.
Last year, Columbus agreed to meet a goal of training one out of every two current officers in how to deal with people having mental health crises by 2020. All recruits already receive such training, called Crisis Intervention Training.
The city also is submitting its training plans for dealing with mentally ill individuals to an international police association for review.
Andrew Ginther, Columbus’ Democratic mayor, touched on these issues when he addressed newly graduated officers earlier this month.
“Policing has always been a difficult profession, but these officers are entering it at a time in history, both nationally and locally, when the challenges may be greater than at any other time,” Ginther said on Jan. 5.
Andrew Welsh-Huggins can be reached on Twitter at https://twitter.com/awhcolumbus.