AUSTIN (KXAN) - Police Chief Art Acevedo has fired two officers and suspended two others stemming from an incident in August in which one of the officers slapped a woman strapped to an ambulance gurney.
According to memos released Wednesday, Officer Michelle Gish smacked the woman in the face after the woman spat in her face. Acevedo said in the memo that Gish was fired because the slapping and her behavior during the incident violated department policies and because she was not truthful in the way she reported the matter.
"Spitting on an officer is a felony offense and officers are authorized to use the reasonable force necessary to affect an arrest in those cases," said Assistant Chief Sean Mannix with the Austin Police Department. "In this case, the expectations and values of the Austin Police Department were not met and appropriate discipline was administered."
"The force used on the restrained subject was determined to be unreasonable, and the officers reports and statements conflicted with the facts in this case," he said.
The incident stemmed from a DWI pursuit on Aug. 31 in which an intoxicated woman had to be placed in an ambulance.
A mug shot photo taken shortly after the arrest, showed Elisa Jaime with noticeable cuts and bruises on her face.
"A member of the family of the woman who was on the gurney who was struck came to our office to file the complaint and then we worked with Internal Affairs," said Austin Police Monitor Margo Frasier. "APD not only looked at conduct of the officer who did the striking, but also looked at the conduct of everyone else there to try and figure out, quite frankly, why the system hadn't worked."
Officer Jose Robledo was also fired because he stated in his report that he pulled Gish away from the woman because he feared that she was being assaulted. He later admitted that he had no reason to believe Gish was being assaulted because the woman on the gurney was strapped down.
"I think the Chief is trying to send a strong message. That, even if what may have originally started out as an act of frustration and anger. That's not ok and it's certainly not ok to downplay or not be truthful about their actions," she said. "In this case, it worked."
Sgt. Mark Breckenridge and Cpl. Steven Jones were suspended because they had failed to recognize the seriousness of the incident and to take appropriate actions, including proper documentation.
"Some of the things that are said and done to our officers, are quite frankly, despicable," Frasier said. "And officers are human, but that's the reason you train officers, so they don't react like a citizen might because they are wearing that uniform."
Breckenridge's suspension starts Thursday and runs until March 5. Jones' suspension starts Thursday and ends Feb. 28.
Jaime, the woman who was struck by the officer, was also taken into custody. She's facing multiple charges, including harassment of a public servant and aggravated assault on a peace officer.
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