Fresno PD, Videotaped Use of Force

February 12, 2009 5:40:17 PM PST
Includes RAW VIDEO Two Fresno Police Officers have been taken off the street after someone videotaped a questionable use of force as they made an arrest on Monday.

Two defense attorneys say they've been asked to represent the man in the video, Glen Beaty. Rick Berman and Eric Schweizter say the police department can expect a civil lawsuit, no matter what happens with their internal investigation.

On Wednesday, an internal affairs investigator came to the North Fresno scene, in a vacant lot next to the Arco gas station at Bullard and Blackstone.

Video of the incident on Monday shows an officer apparently punching Beaty in the face while he and another officer tried to arrest Beaty. "At first glance, when you look at it, it deeply concerns me as a police chief because of the initial level of force that's being used by officers," said Fresno Police Chief Jerry Dyer.

Chief Dyer put the two officers on paid leave while internal affairs looks into whether the use of force was excessive. But he says what happened before the video could be telling. In a police report, the officers say Beaty tried to stab one of them with a pen, and ripped the badge off of one of the officers. "We're hopeful that the investigation, when it's complete, will give a better picture in terms of what truly transpired," said Dyer.

Fresno Mayor Ashley Swearengin is in Washington, D.C. but she saw the video. "I understand that officers need to use force, at times, to protect themselves or to make an arrest," she said. "But the video itself is very disturbing."

Attorneys Rick Berman and Eric Schweitzer have been asked to represent Beaty. They say the incident probably isn't as isolated as the police department would like you to think. "This sort of thing happens all too often. It's not as unusual as we'd hope," said Schweitzer. "What is unusual is for a citizen to record it with a video camera."

Berman and Schweitzer are asking for an independent auditor to look into the case, especially with the department in the middle of another troubling investigation involving narcotics officers accused of grand theft.

ABC-30 legal analyst Tony Capozzi says, when combined, the cases could have the effect of eroding public trust in the entire department. "You know, when these things happen one after the other, you start having cause to think something's wrong with the police department," he said.

Chief Dyer is promising a quick punishment if the investigation determines policy violations by the officers in the video. Meanwhile, Berman and Schweitzer say they've asked the state attorney general's office to investigate the incident and the police department.

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