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Some aldermen on the City Council’s Human Services Committee are requesting to watch a video of a citizen-officer interaction in August to determine whether the tone and language the officer used should have been subject to discipline.
At the Jan. 7 meeting, during the committee’s review of a citizen complaint against police, aldermen pointed to the officer’s language and tone in the incident, in line with concerns they have received in other cases about police attitudes.
The case involved an Aug. 27 domestic incident in which the complainant filed a department complaint, alleging that the officer responded unsatisfactorily by not arresting the alleged offender and instead threatened to arrest her if she did not calm down.
In the department investigation, the accused officer said that the complaining witness’s behavior made it difficult to gather information.
Ninth Ward Alderman Cicely Fleming, chairing the meeting, said she did not know what applied as to whether an arrest should be made.
“But I would hope officers are not arresting people who upset them,” she told police representatives, including new Chief Demitrous Cook, attending the meeting.
“Because I imagine, as an officer, people upset you a lot, particularly if you stop them and they’re frustrated you stop them, or that they’re not doing what you would like them to do,” she said.
Aldermen Peter Braithwaite, 2nd Ward, and Robin Rue Simmons, 5th Ward, also raised concerns, with Ald. Braithwaite suggesting the committee review video of the incident with police at the next Human Services Committee meeting.
“We can ask you to talk us through the interaction from a law enforcement perspective,” he suggested to police.
Ald. Rue Simmons said she has received complaints from citizens in cases in which unnecessary sarcasm and disrespect were at play.
. “I don’t know what you have in place, Chief Cook, to address that,” Ald. Rue Simmons said. “I’m certainly not here to tell people how to do their job. You’ve done a fantastic job [getting] guns off the streets. But we should not have very responsible residents – stakeholders in the community – that are feeling disrespect and losing faith in what otherwise has been a great police department.”
Chief Cook, sworn in on Jan. 2, told committee members he is an advocate of body cameras, which can “paint a picture and bring perspective to an incident just like this.”
He said he has already asked command staff about doing more random audits of videos of incidents and then incorporating findings into training.
“You don’t want to ostracize an officer in front of his comrades,” he said, “but we do want to point out the type of interactions and those types of statements that are inappropriate. Through video and random audits we hope we can catch those type of activities. And certainly we encourage people who feel disrespected by police to bring it [the complaints] forward and then we’ll take a look at it.”