Two Cincinnati police officers used "horrible judgment" and may have violated department policy when they used their Tasers in an early August scuffle, say experts who reviewed body camera footage. The Aug. 8 incident prompted an extraordinary intervention by the Hamilton County prosecutor in an external city investigation into the use of force and a major showdown between City Manager Harry Black and police union President Dan Hils. Two experts – a professor and an expert witness/consultant – reviewed the footage. The experts, both retired police officers, both said that neither the use of force nor the subsequent controversy had to happen. They added that the officers clearly did not follow the city police policy of de-escalation when confronting two young men in their mother's living room in Clifton Heights. And then once things escalated, the officers never stated they were arresting the two men and instead pulled their Tasers and eventually used them – a potential violation of CPD’s official use of force policy. The incident and its aftermath left both men with their first criminal convictions. One of them also suffered a collapsed lung during his arrest; he was recovering from back fusion surgery at the time.
CPD officials declined interview requests to discuss the incident and denied requests to interview Officers Richard Sullivan and Lawrence Johnson, citing an ongoing internal investigation. Johnson was involved in the 2011 fatal police shooting of David “Bones” Hebert in Northside. He was the officer in front of Hebert that early morning when a knife appeared and another officer shot and killed Hebert. Angela Brown, who originally called the police to get her sons to leave her apartment, did not return messages left on her cell phone. The two half-brothers involved, Richard Coleman, 24, and James Crawley, 25, did not return emails seeking comment. Crawley’s lawyer declined comment as the judge in his case has yet to issue a sentence. The men told city investigators they were at their mother's apartment to help her grocery shop, with one saying Brown previously invited him to live there. One of the experts said that the videos show the two officers actively escalating the situation instead of calming things down and eventually “using the Tasers as a form of torture to get them to do what they wanted them to do." “Anyone with any common sense can see the officers never give the kids a chance … and they immediately turned to a weapon that is one step below using lethal force,” said Gary A. Rini, a longtime police officer and commander from suburban Cleveland who now works as a police consultant and expert witness.
Following the incident, one of the brothers made a complaint to the Citizen Complaint Authority, which was created as part of the 2001 Collaborative Agreement to investigate allegations against police. Fraternal Order of Police President Hils requested that city investigators hold off on interviewing the officers until after the two men were fully prosecuted. Eventually, Hamilton County Prosecutor Joe Deters took the previously unheard-of step of asking for and receiving a temporary restraining order against the city, preventing the Citizen Complaint Authority from interviewing the officers. David Thomas, a 20-year police veteran who is now an associate forensics professor at Florida Gulf Coast University, said he could see why the prosecutor didn’t want the officers to be interviewed nor the footage made public until after the charges against the two men had gone through the courts. “There’s certainly enough in here to call into question the officers’ actions in a criminal proceeding against the subjects,” said Thomas, who is also a senior research fellowwith the Police Foundation, a nonprofit policy research group focusing on policing issues.