Here at The Watch, we’ve looked extensively at how difficult it can be to fire cops who use excessive force, even when independent bodies have found that they’ve done so on multiple occasions. So what can get a cop fired? In the case of one campus police officer in California, it was his decision to not use force on a possibly suicidal student.
According to local news reports, an unnamed officer with the California State University, Monterey Bay Police Department responded to a call in February about a troubled student at a university dormitory. Jeff Solomon, president of the Statewide University Police Association (SUPA), the union representing the officer, told The Huffington Post that the call came from a student’s father who was worried his son might hurt himself or attempt to commit suicide.
The student was black, according to information the officer’s lawyer shared with the Monterey County Weekly.
The officer was working alone, so he called the municipal Marina Police Department for assistance in calming the student down, according to accounts given to local news outlets by both Solomon and Marina Police Chief Edmundo Rodriguez.
The situation escalated when the CSUMB officer stepped away to get the student a glass of water, Solomon told HuffPost. The student became agitated again, stood up and raised his voice, prompting the three Marina officers to restrain him on the bed and use two stun guns on him. They reportedly asked the CSUMB officer to use his stun gun to control the student’s legs, but Solomon says the officer refused, saying it was neither justified nor in the student’s best interests.
The complaint against the officer was filed by the Marina officer who came to assist. Rodriguez, the Marina chief, claims that the officer “froze,” putting the other officers at risk. Solomon, the union head, told the Huffington Post that the officer had a 20-year history with no disciplinary actions. He also questioned why three officers would need stun guns to restrain a 150-pound student. The student’s father, the one who initially called the police, has also defended the officer for not Tasing his son.
In a statement in a SUPA press release, the student’s father, who also remained unnamed, expressed gratitude for the CSUMB officer’s actions.
“It defies logic and is extremely disappointing that, at a time when law enforcement isunder fire for using more force than necessary, an officer is being terminated for attempting to use civilized methods to resolve a situation.”
Given that the original complaint was that the student was potential suicidal, you also have to wonder why the response ultimately included four police officers but no mental health professionals. Local coverage from the Monterey Herald here.