Charlotte-Mecklenburg police on Tuesday defended their use of force against a hit-and-run suspect, demonstrating to the media how officers are trained to subdue and handcuff people who are resisting arrest.
The press conference and demonstration at the police training academy occurred a week after a 10-second cellphone video surfaced showing an officer repeatedly punching a suspect in the back as other officers held the man down.
CMPD Chief Kerr Putney said the excessive force investigation is ongoing, but that he’s reviewed that video and footage from the involved officers’ body cameras.
“We’ve reviewed everything and no laws were violated,” Putney said. “The use of force was not unreasonable.”
Putney said the body camera footage was what convinced him that the officers’ behavior was appropriate.
“We have a few other angles in that case that really shed some light that I did not expect to see when the video went viral,” Putney said. “When I first saw that video, I knew I was going to lose sleep for a while.”
CMPD has declined to release the body camera footage to the public, saying that police body camera videos are part of an officer’s personnel file, which is not a public record under North Carolina law.
The department has not released the name of any of the officers in the case. The suspect was identified as Malcolm Glenn Elliott II, 26, who is charged with hit and run, resisting arrest and driving with a revoked license. His family has publicly questioned whether police used too much force and has hired an attorney.
Police say Elliott hit a car near Village Lake Drive and Independence Boulevard last week and then drove off. A trooper who was flagged down notified CMPD, which sent officers to investigate. They encountered Elliott near the Sardis Place apartments. As officers tried to approach the suspect, he ran and officers gave chase, police said.
In a news release, police said officers attempted to restrain Elliott, who “continued to pull his arms away from officers as they attempted to place him in handcuffs. One officer delivered strikes to the suspect’s back in an effort to gain compliance and take him into custody.”
Police say Elliott’s only injury was “a minor abrasion on his arm,” but investigators are unclear whether he got the scratch in the collision or from being punched. Police say Elliott did not request or require medical attention.
The officers involved haven’t been suspended or demoted, Putney said. He wouldn’t say whether they have faced any other discipline.
What police did was demonstrate how hard it can be to get a suspect to cooperate if he’s determined to resist.
They had a small, female police recruit lie face down on the ground with her hands clenched at her stomach. Then police asked two male members of the media to try to place the volunteer’s hands behind her back, ready to be handcuffed. The members of the media couldn’t do it.
Afterward, police talked about the dangers officers in a similar situation can face. Most armed suspects carry guns in their waistband, police say, and officers are trained to always know what a suspect is doing with his hands. Officers are instructed to use their bodies as leverage to gain compliance, or to strike muscles in suspects’ shoulder or neck areas.
“No use of force looks good,” Putney said. “There’s no way we can use force against a citizen, a community member, and it play well.”