Officers on leave after UOF incident captured on video
Chief Ramon Batista said he wanted to release the video before it surfaced online and provide context to it
By PoliceOne Staff
MESA, Ariz. — An Arizona police department recently released video that shows a struggle between several officers and a suspect.
On Tuesday, the Mesa Police Department released a 15-minute video that appears to show officers punching and kneeing a man, identified as 33-year-old Robert Johnson, before taking him to the ground, the Arizona Republic reports. Four officers, who haven’t been identified, were placed on leave pending internal investigation results.
The incident took place on the evening of May 23, after Mesa officers received a call from a woman in distress. The woman said Johnson, who’s her ex-boyfriend, showed up at her apartment complex with a friend, who reportedly tried to break into her apartment, according to KPHO.
After police arrived, officers spoke to Johnson and began to search him to ensure he wasn’t armed. When other officers arrived, they ordered Johnson to sit down, but he refused to do so.
The video shows four officers close in on Johnson before one officer appears to knee him. Three other officers then deliver strikes to the suspect’s head.
The officers eventually handcuffed Johnson and escorted him down an elevator.
Chief Ramon Batista told the Republic that while Johnson didn’t follow officers’ orders to sit down, the use of force seen on the video didn’t appear to be necessary.
"I don't feel that our officers were at their best," Batista said. "I don't feel this situation needed to go the way that it went."
Batista said he wanted to release the video before it surfaced online and provide context to it.
"The images of the video are powerful and I thought it was paramount that you hear it from me with respect to how I feel about it and what I'm going to do to ensure this doesn't happen again," he said.
Batista said the incident prompted him to change the department’s use-of-force policy. The chief told KPNX-TV that the new policy prohibits officers from hitting a suspect in the face or head unless the suspect is fighting with them.
The Mesa Police Association released a statement Tuesday criticizing the chief for releasing the video. The union said it’s “grossly inappropriate to release a portion of video with no audio that does not include the full context of the encounter.”
“Furthermore, we don't understand why video is being released when an internal investigation has not been completed. It is important to understand that any use of force, when viewed, is difficult to watch and never looks ‘good,’” the statement said.
Johnson was arrested on suspicion of disorderly conduct and hindering after the incident.