A Newnan police officer who was fired after a controversial arrest sparked a use-of-force investigation has filed an appeal with the department, officials confirmed to AJC.com.
James Robson filed a grievance with the police chief to “reconsider the action taken,” Deputy Police Chief Mark Cooper said.
“That reconsideration has not been completed and it would be inappropriate for us to comment further on the matter,” Cooper said.
Robson was fired June 18 for violating the department’s use-of-force policy while arresting a driver at the Eastgate Apartments, according to an employee disciplinary report. Robson, who was one of two officers involved in the arrest, took the man into custody while his teenage daughter was in the car with him.
The arrest was captured on video by police body cameras and by residents of the complex.
Robson had been on patrol near Martin Luther King Jr. Drive when he saw a 2012 blue Hyundai Sonata with a brake light out on its passenger side, according to a police report.
“As the vehicle turned into Dodson Street, I activated my emergency blue lights, signaling the vehicle to stop,” Robson wrote in the report. “It kept going for several hundred yards and I activated my siren.”
Robson said the driver, later identified as Sherman Daniel, kept going south on Dodson Street and turned into the apartment complex. The officer said he used his PA system to tell Daniel to stop, but the man pulled into a parking spot in front of a building.
“Due to not knowing why the driver refused to stop, I drew my service weapon from the holster,” he said in the report. “I gave the driver orders to place his hands out the window, which he did not.”
Robson said a crowd gathered around him and started “screaming and getting hostile toward me.”
In body camera footage released by the police department, several neighbors can be heard screaming for Robson and the other officer to put their guns away. In videos posted to social media, witnesses are heard asking why it is necessary for the officers to have guns.
According to the incident report, Robson approached Daniel’s vehicle and saw a teen girl in the back seat. The other officer told the teen to get out of the car, the report said.
Robson said he told Daniel to get out of the car once again.
“I had to give him instructions several more times before he exited the vehicle,” Robson said in the report. “At that time, he was placed in handcuffs behind his back, double locked after checking for fit.”
The body camera footage begins with Daniel getting out of the car and turning his back toward the officers, per their instruction. In it, as Robson places handcuffs on his wrists, Daniel can be heard asking: “Why are you handling me so rough, man?”
“Because you failed to stop all the way from MLK,” Robson said in the video while walking Daniel to his patrol car.
Daniel told the officer he didn’t stop because he had his daughter in the car with him, according to the video. He said he didn’t have a valid driver’s license and knew he would be arrested, but wanted to take his daughter home safely.
“Why would I stop and then y’all try some (expletive) ... I had my daughter in the car,” he said.
Robson frisked Daniel and then told him to get into the patrol car, according to the video. Daniel turned to the officer and began saying something, though it is not clear what.
Robson then yelled for Daniel to get into the car.
“What are you being so rough for?” Daniel asked in the body cam video.
The disciplinary report said Robson’s actions during the arrest violated the policy that says officers “should only use the amount of force reasonable to overcome resistance and accomplish lawful objectives.” The former officer was cited for a “policy violation” and “disobedience/insubordination.”
“Many decisions and actions of law enforcement officers have serious consequences, but none are as irrevocable as the decision to use force,” the policy says.
According to the incident report, Daniel was taken to the Coweta County Jail and charged with brake light violation, suspended license, fleeing police and resisting officers. It is not clear how long he was held in the jail or if he still faces those charges.
Robson was previously reprimanded for a policy violation in April 2018, according to a letter from the police department’s Internal Affairs Investigations unit. The letter indicates Robson received a verbal warning and was made to review the agency’s policy.
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