Powder Springs officer reprimanded in Taser incident

A Powder Springs police officer who used a Taser on a driver pulled over for a malfunctioning tag light last June has been reprimanded.

Powder Spring police Chief Charlie Sewell said Friday that Sgt. Keith Moore was reprimanded after a Cobb County police investigation determined Moore, and another officer, Lt. Alton Bailey -- who resigned from the department last August over a separate matter -- did not commit a crime in shocking the driver, Brice Wilson, twice.

Sewell issued a press release Friday saying that Powder Springs internal affairs investigation determine Moore and Bailey failed to follow departmental policy.

Activist Gerald Rose, head of a group he founded, New Order National Human Rights, who has pushed for criminal charges to be brought against the officers and their dismissal, said he was disappointed with the investigation and reprimand.

"I was disappointed with the outcome," said Rose, who met with Sewell Friday morning. "It seems like we [African-Americans] always get the wrong end of the stick."

Wilson, who is black, has said he thought race was a factor in his arrest and treatment. He has retained Tucker attorney James Howard who last year sent a letter to the City of Powder Springs offering to settle the matter for $5oo,000. The city rejected the offer.

During the arrest, captured on a squad car video, Wilson, 23, is seen being questioned by the officers who say they smell marijuana. Wilson was frisked and searched before he allegedly began resisting arrest. The video then shows Wilson being put in a chokehold and stunned with a Taser twice.

Sewell, who was not chief of the department when the incident happened, asked Cobb County police to investigate once he became chief last August, and he launched a separate internal affairs investigation. Last month Sewell said "There are some things in that video that I took issue with.”

Sewell declined Friday to comment beyond the press release, on the advice of the city attorney. In addition to the reprimand, Moore will be required to attend additional training for violating department procedure. An independent investigator, Michael E. Tate, a former local law enforcement officer, internal affairs investigator, and now a consultant in police abuse cases, who reviewed the video told the AJC in January he thought excessive force was used by the officers.

On the video, the two officers searching Wilson said they are searching for weapons and drugs. It’s standard procedure to search for weapons during a traffic stop, said Michael E. Tate, a former local law enforcement officer, internal affairs investigator, and now a consultant in police abuse cases, said Tate.

But Tate said the officers appeared to cross the line because Wilson didn't appear in the video to be resisting arrest but reacting to pain when officers wrench his arms behind his back.

“The force that was used by the officers should be evaluated based on the action of the suspect,” he said. “It should not be used to punish or cause pain; it should be used to subdue the suspect.” Tate said using a Taser on Wilson twice while he appeared to be subdued is “obviously a cause for concern.”

At the time of the stop, the department’s policy did not address the use of Tasers, Sewell said. That policy has since been changed. It now prohibits the use of a Taser on people who are handcuffed, except when they are violently resisting or assaulting someone, and other methods are likely to be ineffective.