August 13, 2012

Arlington officer's use of force against girl is questioned

Residents raised concerns Monday about how an Arlington police officer slammed a 15-year-old girl to the ground while breaking up a melee.

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ARLINGTON -- A group of residents raised concerns Monday about an Arlington police officer slamming a 15-year-old girl to the ground while breaking up a melee, an incident a witness recorded on cellphone video and posted online.

Though one speaker said she was outraged by the video, the Rev. Kyev P. Tatum Sr. said during a news conference outside the Police Department that he was not casting judgment on the officer's actions because everything that transpired was not yet known.

"There is no secret we have had some concerns with the use of excessive force by the Arlington Police Department in the past," said Tatum, the local leader of the Southern Christian Leadership Conference. "But we are not in any way stating emphatically at this time that we know that excessive force was used because we have not seen all the facts in the case."

Police said Monday that a review of the incident was ongoing.

Arlington Police Association President Randle Meadows said, however, that the officer used empty hand control, one of the lowest levels of force available after a person fails to follow verbal commands

"I'm confident the review will show to us and to the community the officer used the appropriate amount of force and restraint in that uncontrolled environment," Meadows said.

Take-down video

Fights broke out outside 1010 Collins, an entertainment and event center, about midnight Wednesday after facility personnel ended a private party early, according to police and an event center official. An estimated 600 to 700 patrons were at the club, police said.

About 30 officers were trying to "de-escalate the crowds and the fights" when the use-of-force incident occurred, Arlington police have said.

The 33-second video shows a hectic scene as the officer slams the girl to the pavement. But the video, which captures crowds of young people milling about, does not show what happened before the encounter.

The girl was arrested on suspicion of fighting in public and released to the custody of her parents, police said. The girl's family canceled a planned meeting with Arlington police officials Monday, said Sgt. Christopher Cook, a department spokesman.

The officer followed policy and reported the use-of-force incident the night it happened and before the video was shown by news outlets, Cook said. The department declined to name the officer, an eight-year veteran who remains on duty pending the review.

Honest dialogue

Tatum, president of Fort Worth-Tarrant County chapter of the SCLC, said his organization has reached out to Arlington police to collaborate on an effort to deter children from turning to "violent means to resolve their personal conflicts."

The Police Department "graciously accepted" the invitation, he said.

Bridgett Davis, who described herself as a community activist and a mother, said the use of force against a child such as shown in the video "will not be tolerated." She also said it created an opportunity for "honest dialogue with the Police Department."

Cook said the Police Department welcomes the dialogue.

"We will continue to meet with them as needed just as we partner with other social service organizations to enhance our Arlington community," he wrote in an e-mail.

Arlington police have asked the public to come forward with additional video footage, but no one has.

"The videos we believe will exonerate our officer or will help further our investigation," Cook said.

The city is also working with the club's owner and management.

"We want them to be successful," Cook said. "To do that, they have to have adequate security onsite to make sure public safety is maintained," Cook said.

Alex Branch, 817-390-7689

Susan Schrock, 817-709-7578

Twitter: @albranch1

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