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Monday, September 15, 2014

I Wholeheartedly Agree With Bowling Green Editorial On Bowling Green, Kentucky, Officer's Use Of Excessive Force.

BGPD officer should lose job

Police brutality has no place in our community. Those who break the law are guaranteed rights when they are arrested and booked

Those rights should be respected and adhered to by all law enforcement officers at all times.

In our opinion, excessive force was used by Bowling Green Police Sgt. Donitka Kay when she arrested Christy Faye Gammon for disorderly conduct on the night of April 26.

During the incident, Kay had Gammon handcuffed and punched her “multiple times” in the head with a closed fist after Gammon spit at her and it landed on her uniform. Gammon claimed she was pregnant at the time of the arrest when Kay had her handcuffed on the ground. 

A police employee hearing Tuesday before the Bowling Green City Commission lasted into the night to determine if Kay would be fired or retained. Kay faced civil charges of fourth-degree assault, unjustified use of physical force, as well as several violations of Bowling Green Police Department policy. Kay’s attorney, Alan Simpson, didn’t dispute that Kay hit Gammon but said hitting her was a last resort. Simpson also said Gammon used a racial epithet to refer to Kay, who is black. He also said Gammon was “wild” at the time of her arrest. He also argued that Gammon was kicking and trying to injure Kay.

None of the arguments Simpson raised during this hearing justify punching a handcuffed prisoner in our judgment.

Bowling Green attorney Wesley Milliken, who represented the police department, described the situation best when he said: “It’s police brutality. You can’t beat a prisoner who’s handcuffed on the ground whether she spits on you or not.”

Milliken also said that even after Kay called for medical assistance, she sent EMS services away from the scene without treating Gammon. 
However, Simpson argued that Kay had assumed Gammon refused treatment while Kay was otherwise occupied at the scene.

In a situation such as this where a prisoner is struck “multiple times” by a police officer, that officer shouldn’t assume anything. It was her job to see that the prisoner got proper medical care, not to assume that she did.
Kay didn’t do this and Milliken argued that Kay falsely reported this.

Simpson also argued that everyone who was watching the hearing, including inmates, would conclude that it’s OK to fight a police officer because they really can’t defend themselves completely.

This was a scare tactic by Simpson and is simply not true. Police have many tools and techniques they can use that follow police policy when trying to arrest and subdue a suspect, and that doesn’t involve punching them while handcuffed. If one reviews daily police reports as this newspaper does, there hasn’t been a case in recent memory where an officer punched a handcuffed suspect “multiple times.”

One would have thought this would have been an open and shut civil case before the Bowling Green City Commission. Sadly, it wasn’t.

Commissioners Bill Waltrip, Melinda Hill and Joe Denning voted to not fire Kay. Only Mayor Bruce Wilkerson and Commissioner Rick Williams dissented. Wilkerson voted against the not guilty decision on all charges and Williams joined him in his dissent on the charges involving unnecessary use of force and violation of police policies involving unsatisfactory performance, use of force and special transport of an injured prisoner.

What part of unnecessary use of force did these three commissioners not understand?

Bowling Green Police Chief Doug Hawkins said after reviewing the information gathered in the internal investigation, he determined that policy and state law had been violated and that termination was the appropriate action. Hawkins described Gammon as a “passive threat” and said that the woman handcuffed and seated or lying on the ground was “equivalent” to a 5-year-old throwing a tantrum. He also said as the arresting officer, Kay had a responsibility to ensure that Gammon received medical attention.

Hawkins, Wilkerson and Williams got it right. Unfortunately, the same can’t be said about the other three commissioners.

Milliken also gets it. He rightfully argued before the commission that no one likes to be spit on, but police officers are held to a higher standard than the average citizen and they have to hold themselves to that standard. He also said they can’t lose their patience and punch a handcuffed prisoner.

It’s quite obvious Kay lost her temper and, in our opinion, used excessive force by punching Gammon while handcuffed.

The ruling by the majority of this commission that found Kay not guilty is insulting to members of the Bowling Green Police Department who perform a difficult job in a professional manner.

This sets a very bad precedent.

What also raises some red flags about this vote is that two of the commissioners who voted not to fire Kay are former police officers. Wilkerson obviously put aside his former profession in reaching a decision, but it could be argued that Waltrip and Denning were in fact looking out for one of their own.

Had this case been tried in a court of law, Waltrip and Denning as well as Wilkerson wouldn’t have been picked for a jury trial because of their background in law enforcement.

It could be argued that there was an inherent conflict here.
We’re not saying Gammon is an angel. She appeared to be arrested for cause, but she didn’t deserve to be punched “multiple times” while handcuffed.

Although this hearing is over and Kay was retained, the final chapter on this unnecessary matter is still not resolved as the Federal Bureau of Investigations is on the case. Only time will tell what they will or will not do.

But thankfully, we are fortunate to have a fine police department in Bowling Green. The majority of the officers are respectful, follow policies to the letter and look out for the safety of our citizens.
This editorial is not a condemnation of them because we admire and respect the very tough and dangerous jobs they perform on a daily basis. But this is a condemnation on Kay. She abused her powers by her actions, and in our opinion should have been terminated Tuesday from her job.

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