AFRICANGLOBE – An Orlando police officer who kicked a 13-year-old boy in the chest while arresting him last year was “disciplined” after an Internal Affairs investigation found his use of force was excessive, documents show.
Neal Chase, a K-9 officer, was “disciplined” with a 16-hour suspension following the probe, which determined he violated a department regulation on obedience to policies and procedures related to response to resistance and apprehension techniques, an IA investigation released this week in response to a public records request shows.
The investigation was prompted after a review of reports from the incident and another officer’s body worn camera video, which investigators said showed Chase kick the boy as he was on his knees with his hands up – “a position of submission,” investigators wrote.
The body camera footage was not released with Chase’s Internal Affair’s report because the “suspect” is a juvenile.
Chase and other officers in May 2018 were responding to reports of multiple vehicle break-ins near the 500 block of east Jackson Street when witnesses began chasing the 13-year-old and another suspect out of a parking garage and toward South Street and Eola Drive, officers wrote in incident reports from the night of the arrest.
Chase said in an interview with investigators he was directed by other officers toward the teen and a witness who was chasing him and began giving them commands identifying himself as a K-9 officer and telling them to stop running, documents show.
The boy eventually complied and emptied his pockets before kneeling on the ground and raising his hands over his head, according to officers’ description of the body camera footage in interviews with investigators.
Chase told investigators he approached the boy at gunpoint and began giving loud commands for him to get “all the way down.” He said he wanted the boy to lay on his stomach and, when he allegedly wasn’t complying, kicked him in the chest so he’d fall on his back.
Chase and another officer who witnessed the incident described the suspect’s fleeing as an “active resistance” to police. The teen showed no resistance when he stopped running and dropped to his knees, but then was “passively” resisting when Chase said the boy ignored commands to drop to the ground, the officers said.
OPD guidelines for an officer’s response to resistance show passive resistance should be met with “soft control” – techniques like wrist locks, arm bars and pressure points, which have a “minimal potential of injury to the subject” if the person resists.
A kick is considered “hard control,” the guidelines state, and should be reserved for a subject who is actively resisting police.
In a form completed by a supervisor who reviewed Chase’s use of force, Sgt. Ryan McConnell said he did not approve of Chase’s “intensified control techniques” in arresting the boy.
Chase told investigators “extenuating circumstances” were factored in his decision to use more force on the teen, including that the boy was a felony suspect and could have had a weapon. Chase also said the boy’s eyes were moving “in an attempt to potentially look for another escape route as he had already fled… from officers for multiple blocks.”
He also didn’t know another officer was behind him, he said.
“I believed to be in a one on one situation as far as me versus him,” Chase told investigators.
The boy was treated and cleared at the scene by paramedics after complaining of chest pain, officers said in interviews. He and another boy, who allegedly told police the boys had broken into numerous cars over the previous days, were arrested on burglary, criminal mischief and grand theft charges, records show.
Chase filed grievances following his suspension, arguing his discipline was excessive and he should be exonerated, documents show. He said investigators should have interviewed the agency’s defensive tactics expert to assess “the reasonableness” of his actions. His technique is “taught and standard practice by SWAT members during dynamic entries,” he argued.
Chief Orlando Rolón rejected the grievances, saying video of the incident “clearly shows” the boy “was in a position internationally recognized as that of surrender” when Chase kicked him.
By: Tess Sheets