PD investigating video that appears to show officer slapping patient being loaded into rig

Worcester Police Chief Steven M. Sargent said the video seems to show an officer using force on a patient in a stretcher after the patient allegedly spat at officers


Brad Petrishen
Telegram & Gazette, Worcester, Mass.

WORCESTER, Mass. — Police have opened an internal investigation after a video surfaced on Facebook that appears to show an officer slapping a man on a gurney.

The brief video, posted to Facebook Tuesday night, appears to show a police officer slapping a man whom first responders were trying to load into an ambulance.

The 26-second video does not show the entire interaction. It appears to have been taken by a man driving by the ambulance who can be heard on the video telling police, "Hit him again," perhaps ironically.

"WorcesterPD cmon bro," the man, who could not be immediately reached via Facebook Wednesday afternoon, wrote above the video when he posted it.

The video had been shared 131 times on the social media platform as of 5:30 p.m. Wednesday. Councilor-At-Large Khrystian E. King confirmed Wednesday afternoon that he'd received several texts about it and has passed it along to city and police administrators.

 

WorcesterPD cmon bro 😂

Posted by John A Smith on Tuesday, July 21, 2020

"I saw an engagement between law enforcement and an individual that requires a thorough review to determine what exactly occurred, and the context within which it occurred," said King, confirming it is his understanding the incident took place during a mental health call.

Chief Steven M. Sargent confirmed Wednesday that the department's internal affairs division will investigate. He wrote in a statement that the video "appears to show a Worcester Police officer using force after a man was spitting at officers.

"We hold our officers to the highest standard and are fully committed to investigating every complaint, regardless of its source," he wrote.

Sargent did not say in his statement how long the internal affairs investigation might take or whether the results would be released to the public.

The city is withholding nine internal affairs investigations the Telegram & Gazette has requested into other police interactions, and has redacted the conclusions from three others it has turned over during litigation initiated by the newspaper in 2018.

The T&G sued the city after it refused to turn over internal affairs reports related to allegations of police misconduct made by local civil rights attorney Hector E. Pineiro.

The city has also refused to turn over the disciplinary histories for 17 officers named in the complaints. The T&G's lawyer has argued the city is breaking the public records law, while the city has argued releasing the information would hurt its ability to defend officers facing civil lawsuits from Pineiro.

The city argues case law supports the withholding, a contention the T&G vigorously disputes in court filings. City Manager Edward M. Augustus Jr. has declined an interview on the topic and declined to answer a number of questions about whether he believes the public should have access to disciplinary records of police.

The video posted Tuesday came on the same night Augustus told the City Council he is pursuing funding and implementation of a body camera system for police.

Proponents of body cameras say they provide unbiased evidence of what occurred during police calls, while opponents note that a number of studies have concluded the cameras have not had significant impact on police conduct.

Many opponents of body cameras for police point to the cost, arguing the money would be better suited going to coffers of other government departments, or shifting the burden of responding to calls – including mental health calls – to social workers or others who do not carry weapons.

A body camera program in Worcester could cost as much as $11 million over five years, police said Tuesday.

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©2020 Telegram & Gazette, Worcester, Mass.

McClatchy-Tribune News Service

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