AUSTIN (KXAN) - An Austin police sergeant is off the job for 15 days after grabbing the neck of a combative suspect and yelling obscenities at him.
It's the latest in a number of disciplinary actions where Austin officers lost their cool.
But with less uncommitted time and officers going from call to call, solutions are few, according to the Police Association.
"These are very stressful times when you're going from call to call to call, nothing but negativity, no down time to decompress you're going to see these things happen," said Wayne Vincent of the Police Association.
On first look, police work one of the more stressful jobs in our community.
Training of new recruits involves putting them on the receiving end of shouts and insults from instructors, similar to a military boot camp. It is designed to recreate tense situations and unexpected moments.
On March 8, APD Sgt. Kenneth Conner ran into one of those moments after a burglary call at a liquor store on West Stassney Lane. He spotted a possible suspect outside the business.
The disciplinary memo dated June 6, 2013, said after the suspect was detained and put into the back of a patrol car, he became combative, even kicking on the car doors.
Officers brought him out, and restrained his legs, tying them back using hobble restraints. Conner was securing the suspect back in the car, when the man spat at him.
That's when Conner grabbed the throat, neck and chin area of the suspect.
Conner's superior said in degrading situations such as when someone is spat on, even training cannot override human reactions.
"As Sgt. Conner would probably tell his own troops, that is an excellent example of what not to do," said Lt. Joe Robles, Conner's superior.
APD policy states "only objectively reasonable force which appears necessary under the circumstances" is to be used in an arrest.
Further, it states officers "will be tactful in the performance of their duties control their tempers, exercise patience and discretion…"
Conner's situation is similar to a 2012 arrest involving APD Officer Sean McWhorter . After he was spat on, he received five days suspension for banging a suspect's head on the patrol car hood.
But in February of that same year, Chief Art Acevedo fired two officers and suspended two others stemming from an incident in August 2011 in which one of the officers slapped a woman strapped to an ambulance gurney.
Officer Michelle Gish reportedly smacked the woman in the face after the woman spat in her face. Acevedo said he fired Gish 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.
In January, Sgt. William Lefebvre was penalized for breaking APD policy. He used his foot to move a handcuffed suspect in a patrol car backseat. He received 60 days suspension and a demotion to corporal in part because he failed to immediately report the incident to his superiors.
Some relief is on the horizon for busy, stressed-out APD officers. Later this month APD is encouraging officers to attend a one-day course called Emotional Survival for Law Enforcement. It's a bid to put a dose of humor and perspective into their daily jobs.
Austin police put out an annual report into use of force. The latest, the 2011 Response to Resistance report found that year there were:
- 3,030 reports of use of force
- 1,863 people were subjected to some level of use of force
To put that in context, the total number of arrests in 2011 was 58,538. That meant the total number of response to resistance reports were 3.2 percent of all calls.
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