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Cincinnati police used excessive force in Tasing of man, panel says

WARNING: Some might find police body camera video of incident disturbing
Updated: Jun. 9, 2021 at 1:41 PM EDT
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CINCINNATI (WXIX) - Cincinnati police used excessive force when they Tased a man they suspected was in a city park after hours, the city’s police oversight panel determined.

The 2019 incident is now the subject of a federal lawsuit against the city of Cincinnati and Officers Weston Voss and Emily Heine.

Brandon Davis, 34, was walking from a friend’s apartment to his residence in Millvale. He is autistic and lives with his mother, Nicole Davis, who helps care for him due to his disability, according to his lawsuit.

The two officers spotted Brandon walking near the Wayne Recreation Center after the park had closed.

After he kept walking when they yelled at him to stop, the officers used a Taser on Davis, handcuffed him and charged him with resisting arrest, being in the park and a pedestrian violation (jaywalking) to avoid the officers.

Below is raw video from police body cameras of the incident. Some may find the content disturbing.

A Hamilton County jury acquitted Davis on all charges in November 2019, court records show.

“Although CPD procedure states that an officer is allowed to use whatever force is reasonably necessary to enable an arrest of an actively resistant subject, BWC footage confirmed the officers never advised Mr. Davis he was under arrest, nor that he was being cited, prior to using hard hands,” Citizens Complaint Authority Director Gabriel Davis wrote in a summary of the agency’s investigation findings to CCA board members.

“The officers confirmed for CCA that they were only intending to question him about the park offense. Indeed, when the officers testified under oath at Mr. Davis’s trial, they did not testify that they intended to arrest Mr. Davis, or cite him, only that he was to be detained for questioning.

“The offense that gave rise to the stop, remaining in the park after hours, only allowed for a citation, not an arrest. These factors limit the amount of force that could be permissibly used under the Fourth Amendment to detain Mr. Davis.

“Nonetheless, the fact that Mr. Davis’s conduct was not arrestable, and that officers did not intend to arrest him, does not prohibit all use of force, because CPD’s policy permits ‘some degree’ of force, even in making an investigatory stop, which is consistent with the law.

“The question is: was the amount of force used against Mr. Davis reasonable. CCA’s investigation determined that significant portions of the officers’ elevated use of force, specifically the tasing of Mr. Davis, was not reasonable.”

The officers’ use of the Taser on Davis was “excessively prolonged,” CCA’s director wrote in the memo to the CCA board.

According to Davis’ lawsuit, the officers shoved him into a fence and tased him seven times in 134 seconds.

“Under the circumstances presented here—in light of the minimal nature of the alleged offense, the absence of an immediate threat, the absence of probable cause to arrest, and absence of active aggression—CCA concluded that Officers Voss and Ward used excessive force.”

CCA also determined an allegation of improper seizure was sustained.

Davis’ lawsuit says CPD determined tasing Davis was part of procedure. The officers were never disciplined.

They exonerated the officers on an improper stop allegation and determined an allegation of discrimination was not sustained.

The CCA reviews allegations of police misconduct and incidents and reports directly to the city manager.

They also make non-binding recommendations that are forwarded to the city manager, who can accept or reject their findings.

In this case, CCA recommended police revisit department policy for appropriate Taser use, particularly multiple times and for prolonged periods, and to consider use-of-Taser cases for automatic review by the department’s critical review board.

Sgt. Dan Hils, president of the union that represents Cincinnati police, criticized CCA’s findings in a lengthy statement that noted an internal investigation into the officers’ use of force found they acted appropriately and only used force when it was necessary.

The FOP is calling on Cincinnati City Manager Paula Boggs Muething “to reject these so-called findings made by the CCA against these officers,” Hils statement reads.

“The CCA’s dangerous analysis suggested that anyone who’s stopped on suspicion of a crime can ignore the police and the law if they want to and officers can’t use force to stop them. The city manager must reject this finding to ensure police are able to do our job and keep this community safe.”

CCA recently received renewed focus and funding at City Hall in light of the national and local police reform movements after George Floyd’s death in police custody in Minneapolis.

City Council is expected next week to discuss a motion signed by multiple council members for $400,000 in additional funding for CCA to hire four more case investigators.

CCA resulted from the city’s landmark 2002 Collaborative Agreement with the U.S. Department of Justice, the cornerstone of the post-2001 riot police reforms to try to improve relations between the police force and the Cincinnati community it serves.

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