Wednesday, June 19, 2013

Tennessee: Police Chief Earns Praise For Halting Cover Up

Knoxville Police Chief David Rausch should be commended for crushing a cover-up among his officers regarding a brutal beating in February of a homeless man in North Knoxville.

The three officers involved in the beating have confessed, entering guilty pleas last week to misdemeanor assault and felony official oppression charges. Former Knoxville Police Department officers Jeremy Jinnett, Ty Compton and Chris Whitfield face an Aug. 8 sentencing hearing.

The officers beat a homeless man, Michael Allen Mallicoat, after he had been detained and hog-tied at the intersection of Grainger and Luttrell avenues on Feb. 9.

Other officers and supervisors attempted to cover up the incident, which was captured on in-cruiser video and witnessed by people who live in the North Knoxville neighborhood where the incident occurred. One of the supervisors, Lt. Brad Anders, also is a Knox County commissioner.

Internal Affairs Unit Capt. Kenny Miller investigated the incident, and his report shows KPD supervisors tried to protect the officers involved. Capt. Eve Thomas, Sgt. John Shelton and Anders approved what turned out to be deceitful use-of-force reports without having viewed the incriminating video. Thomas received an oral reprimand, while Anders and Shelton received written reprimands.

Officers Richard Derrick White and Nicholas Ferro also were found at fault in Miller’s probe of excessive force against Mallicoat, while the original two responding officers to the scene that day — Haley Starr and Cynthia LeeAnn DeMarcus — were labeled in Miller’s report as willfully blind and deceitful. Each was suspended without pay.

“It’s just completely inappropriate,” Rausch said at a news conference about the incident. “I feel sorry it happened. We’re sorry to Mr. Mallicoat this happened. I tell people all the time, unfortunately we have to recruit from the human race.”

The officers who beat Mallicoat certainly should bear the brunt of the blame for the incident, and the three should receive jail time, but those who would have given them a free pass also have violated their duty to the public. Anders’ participation in particular is disturbing. As a county commissioner, he should be held to a higher standard of behavior. His participation in the cover-up is without question a stain on his service, both as a police officer and an elected official. At the very least, Anders needs to issue a public apology for his role in this episode of police brutality.

The vast majority of police officers are conscientious and dedicated public servants who do not let the considerable stresses of the job lead them to brutalize people taken into custody. A few, however, abuse their power, and there should be a zero-tolerance policy for them.

Rausch is sending the right message to his troops and to the general public — brutality will not be tolerated. Knoxvillians should be proud of their police chief and confident that in the future he will make sure the officers under his command conduct themselves in a humane and honorable fashion.

No comments:

Post a Comment