CINCINNATI, OH (FOX19) - A Cincinnati police pre-disciplinary hearing was held Monday for an officer who Tased an 11-year-old shoplifting suspect in the back last month.
A use of force report found Officer Kevin Brown violated four policies when he shocked the girl in the back with his stun gun as she tried to flee a shoplifting offense at the Spring Grove Kroger store.
♦The department’s rules and regulations related to prejudice by telling the girl: “You know sweetheart, this is why there’s no grocery stores in the black community, because of all this going on.”
♦He did not activate his body camera until after he deployed his Taser
♦He did not warn the child he was going to use the device.
♦The incident was not serious enough to deploy a Taser. Officers are told to use the least amount of force necessary.
During Monday’s hearing, police administrators reviewed the officer’s actions and violations with him and listened to his side of the story. The police union also spoke on his behalf.
Police Chief Eliot Isaac has final say on the officer’s punishment, which could range from counseling to a written reprimand to firing.
Brown, who was placed on restrictive duty after the Aug. 6 incident, has the opportunity to appeal.
He working off-duty at the store when he says he approached several juvenile females stealing snacks Aug. 6, police said.
Brown deployed his Taser and hit her in back, police said, after she ignored his commands to stop and walked away.
She was arrested and charged with theft and obstructing official business.
The girl’s mother, Donna Gowdy, admitted in an interview her daughter was wrong. But she said she feels there could have been a different way to apprehend her daughter rather than use a Taser.
After the news broke, Mayor John Cranley apologized to the girl’s family and announced charges were dropped against her at his request.
Hamilton County Prosecutor Joe Deters said he was not pursuing charges “against an 11-year-old girl who committed a low-level misdemeanor who was Tased in the back. We are done with it. The city can deal with the officer administratively."
Police administrative hearings are closed to the public and media.
Police union leader, Sgt. Dan Hils, provided a preview of the FOP’s defense of the officer in a weekend Facebook post.
“Police Officer Kevin Brown was charged with rule 1.06C in the police department’s rules and regulations which states; Members of the Department shall not express any prejudice concerning race, sex, religion, national origin, life-style, or similar characteristics,” Hils wrote on Facebook.
"Kevin told a juvenile theft suspect, ‘You know sweetheart, this is why there’s no grocery stores in the black community, because of all this going on.’ This interaction was recorded on Kevin’s body worn camera and led to the charge.
“Was this statement by an African American police officer to this young theft suspect prejudice, or a truth that hurts?”
“Prejudice,” Hils wrote, “is defined as preconceived opinion that is not based on reason or actual experience. Officer Brown’s life experiences of over fifty years as an African American man, more than twenty of those as a police officer, make his opinion anything but preconceived and without reason.”
Brown, 55, has been with Cincinnati police since 1994.
Hils questions whether the officer is being penalized because he hits on a racially sensitive topic.
"Officer Brown had an honest opinion on a difficult subject. This wasn’t prejudice, and he wasn’t wrong to discuss this subject with this delinquent youth. The message was that many people can be affected by your bad behavior."
Earlier this month, the police chief old City Council’s Law and Public Safety Committee the officer violated “several” department procedures.
The chief said the department may now "tweak' its Taser use of force policy in light of the incident.
“Quite frankly, I believe the officer violated the policy,” Isaac said back on Sept. 4. "We’ll take a close look at it as it relates to juveniles specifically, what’s being done out there nationally.
“Whenever an incident like this happens, we must take the opportunity to make sure we are staying current with what’s happening nationally. There may be some areas we can tweak, but I believe we do have a very solid policy around our use of force.”
Hils questions the police investigation into the officer’s use of force.
“When reading the summary of the investigation of Officer Brown’s use of taser, I immediately saw the half-truth ‘great lie’ being used to unfairly persecute him," Hils wrote.
”The report stated that Officer Brown acknowledged he could have eventually caught the theft suspect and for this the report determined her fleeing was “minimal” and therefore the force used did not meet the Graham v. Conner decision standard.
"The report omits Officer Brown’s reasoning to use his taser had much to do with trying to apprehend the one suspect and continue to contain the other two in the store. The other two suspects successfully fled despite Officer Brown’s methods, but his objective to apprehend all three were rooted in his ambition to fulfill his duty as assigned by his employer and enforce the law as he is sworn.
"Officer Brown was being paid to reduce loss from theft. Officers, like Kevin Brown, are hired by Kroger to keep their thin profit margin form being lost to shoplifting and therefore closing the store. Officer Brown was enforcing the law of the State of Ohio. He was doing his job.
"Officer Kevin Brown’s Department Level Hearing to determine fact and make recommendation on discipline is Monday. Before this hearing and before the investigation was completed many had already determined guilt of the officer. Several council members went on record in the media saying so. Chief Isaac said to media; “Quite frankly, I believe the officer violated policy”
"Quite frankly, I am disappointed that the Chief and other leaders made their minds up without time and investigation of fact that would have led to the possibility of a fair review of this incident.
"Quite frankly, I believe they didn’t like it that an eleven year old was tased and feared the reaction by the media, so they immediately sacrificed the officer. They didn’t have enough loyalty to their employee to be at least steadfast in allowing a fair review process before judging.
"They didn’t have the nerve to discuss the delinquency of this youth and how it is symptomatic of greater societal issues.
“Oh, I forgot that discussion is in violation of rule 1.06C!”
The police chief is expected to return to City Council’s Law and Public Safety Committee meeting in two weeks and discuss changing the department’s Taser policy in light of the incident.
A presentation tentatively planned for Monday was postponed until Oct. 1 because the police chief is out of town at a conference, said Vice Mayor Chris Smitherman, committee chairman.
The officer’s actions also will be discussed at that time, Smitherman said, and he’s asked the FOP to come in and give their viewpoint of the incident and Taser policy.
Smitherman asked last month for the chief to address the committee. He also has called for a complete review of the incident and policy changes.
He has said he wants to raise the age limit from 7 to 12.
He’also asked for a review of each time an officer shocked anyone under the age of 18 with a Taser in the past two years.
Now, the police department’s policy states: Tasers should not be used on those under 7 years old or more than 70 and obviously not on pregnant women "due to the potential for these individuals to fall when incapacitated by the Taser.
The policy also states “the preferred target area is the back of the individual actively resisting arrest” and tells officers to avoid firing a Taser at the head, neck, eyes, throat and chest.
“An individual simply fleeing from an officer, absent additional justification,does not warrant the use of the TASER,” according to the manual. “The TASER may be deployed on a suspect actively resisting arrest when there is probable cause to arrest the suspect.”
The manual’s definition of “actively resisting arrest” states:
"When the subject is making physically evasive movements to defeat the officer’s attempt at control, including fleeing, bracing, tensing, pushing, or verbally signaling an intention to avoid or prevent being taken into or retained in custody.”
Officers are told that when weighing whether to use their Taser, they should consider the severity of the crime, the level of suspicion with respect to the fleeing suspect, and the risk of danger posed to others if the suspect is not promptly apprehended.
Police administration want to remove the age but that’s up for discussion, Smitherman said.
He said Monday he still has several questions about how the policy would work.
“I’m still wondering why police think they need to Tase 2nd graders,” he said.