Experts: Officer acted properlyBy CHRIS TISCH, Times Staff Writer
© St. Petersburg Times
published Online, March 11, 2003
The St. Petersburg Times asked two law enforcement experts to review photos of Saturday night's incident, which were posted on the newspaper's website. Here's what they said:
Ken Cooper, a use-of-force expert in New York, said he thinks the officer acted properly.
"I would go to bat for this police officer as an expert in the use of force," said Cooper, director of Tactical Handgun Training, which offers courses in use-of-force training.
In fact, Cooper said at one point it appears "like he is handling her in a nicer way than he should be handling her. I think what he tried to do was minimize what was going on and it caused the episode to last longer and look worse."
Cooper, who is also a use-of-force consultant, said it appears the officer is reaching for Talley's elbow and neck, both pressure points that officers grab to subdue unruly people. While the move may look like a choke, it isn't.
"Is he choking her? I don't believe he is," Cooper said. "I believe he is using his thumb for a pressure point not to hurt her vindictively, but to gain control of her. Grabbing for the neck, the goal is to control the head to get some control over her upper body."
Cooper, who said he is an advocate for less lethal force, said Talley also appears to be aggressively resisting the officer.
"The aggressiveness and the non-compliance of the suspect in the use of force against a police officer and the intensity of that aggression allows for the the escalation of force against a suspect," Cooper said. "Seeing a police officer do a police action is upsetting for a lot of people, and it's upsetting for the cop."
The officer also had fewer options dealing with a woman than a man, said Greg MacAleese, a former Albuquerque, N.M., police detective who is president of Law Enforcement Technologies, which supplies police departments with non-lethal devices.
"When you're dealing with a woman, there aren't too many places that your hands can go that aren't going to get you in trouble," he said. "It can be difficult.
"A lot of times when someone wants to fight you, it can look dog ugly," MacAleese added. "I think he was trying to physically restrain her so he could turn her around and get her in position where she could be handcuffed."
Both experts also noted that the officer would have been compelled the remove the woman quickly, lest a prolonged scuffle spark the crowd, which could result in trampling.
"He has got to be thinking, "this cannot turn into a riot,' " Cooper said. "He's got to nip this is in the bud as soon as possible. There is legitimacy for getting her the heck out of there assertively."
Cooper said officers may have been especially wary of that after nightclub tragedies recently in Chicago and Rhode Island.
"You can't sit there and jaw with somebody," MacAleese said. "You want to affect an arrest as fast as possible. Get them in cuffs and get them the hell out of there. You don't sit there and talk about it."
Cooper said the officer was smart not to use pepper spray or a baton to subdue Talley.
"What I see here is a police officer who has use-of-force options," Cooper said. "He has many of them. Spraying a crowd would be a very bad thing. And he didn't do that -- excellent for that police officer's decision making. The only thing he used was his own body.
"He has the right, the duty and the obligation to use force to control the situation," Cooper added. "It's extremely critical that he exercise his police authority. He is duty-bound to act. If he doesn't and it gets out of hand, we could have people dying."
Cooper also noted that the crowd didn't surge against the officer.
"If the crowd felt he was doing anything unwarranted, I think we would have had a situation," Cooper said. "But I see faces smiling in the background. It doesn't look like they're real upset with his actions. The witnesses are giving a lot in their facial expressions."
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