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Video: Tenn. cops outnumbered by 800 rowdy partygoers

A few officers can be heard on video saying they had been struck by beer bottles

By Jamie Satterfield
The Knoxville News-Sentinel

KNOXVILLE, Tenn. — For the University of Tennessee Police Department, it was simple math — eight officers, 800 partygoers.

"That night (Saturday) we had probably a total of seven officers, eight with a supervisor," UTPD spokesman Lt. Mike Richardson said.

The agency's decision to summon help — first, from the Knoxville Police Department, and, later, from the Knox County Sheriff's Office — in response to the massive block party thrown by UT students in Fort Sanders late Saturday has come under scrutiny in the wake of an alleged excessive force incident by a KCSO deputy.

Knox County Sheriff Jimmy "J.J." Jones on Sunday fired Deputy Frank Phillips after photographs surfaced depicting Phillips using a restraint method in which he put his hands around the neck of a UT student and pressed down on "pressure points" to force 21-year-old Powell resident Jarod Dotson onto his knees.

Dotson already was being held by two other KCSO deputies with his hands behind his back as the deputies sought to swap out one officer's handcuffs for another set before loading Dotson into a paddy wagon. Those two deputies, Brandon Gilliam and Ronald Chaperon Jr., are on paid leave pending an internal investigation.

Richardson said a UTPD officer patrolling Fort Sanders discovered the block party on Laurel Avenue, where dozens of partygoers were in the roadway and hundreds more were in yards and on sidewalks.

"That was the reason for the initial call (for help) to the city," Richardson said of the sheer number of students and party attendees.

But even with extra troops from KPD, officers had little success clearing the street, the lieutenant said.

"There was resistance from the crowd," he said.

Videos and photographs from the party posted on social media sites showed some students chanting obscenities at officers and refusing to turn down an outdoor stereo system being manned by a deejay. A few officers can be heard on video saying they had been struck by beer bottles.

Richardson said UTPD then decided to call in even more reinforcements, asking KCSO for help. An estimated 60 officers ultimately wound up at the scene.

Even with hundreds of partygoers and dozens of police officers, Richardson said the arrest count among all three agencies was low — less than a dozen. Most of the arrests were on charges of public intoxication, resisting arrest, disorderly conduct or obstructing sidewalks.

"It was actually a very reserved (police) reaction from our perspective," Richardson said.

He said no UTPD officers saw Phillips applying the restraint maneuver, which has been frowned upon and, in some cases, outright banned by police agencies in the past decade because its misuse can cause serious injury or even death. Photographs showed Phillips' use of the maneuver did not render Dotson unconscious, and he rose from his knees largely unassisted.

"We have not had any complaints on our officers," Richardson said of UTPD. "We're very happy with how our officers handled themselves."

KPD spokesman Darrell DeBusk said Monday his agency likewise had not received any complaints against its officers in their handling of the block party.

Copyright 2014 the Knoxville News-Sentinel 

McClatchy-Tribune News Service

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