TAMPA, Fla. (WFLA) — The video was shot from a cell phone, almost directly in front of the office of Tampa Mayor Bob Buckhorn.
The video is from Sunday, May 15th. The mayor wasn’t in his office, but a Tampa police car was on patrol. The video shows two officers getting out of the car and in less than twenty seconds a teenage boy is taken to the ground and eventually placed in handcuffs by one of the officers.
The video has been shared a number of times online and almost instantly the officer was being criticized for using excessive force.
“The video is just a small snippet of time,” said veteran officer Jim Diamond. Diamond is now the director of operations with the West Central Florida Police Benevolent Association, but has trained Tampa Police officers for years.
Diamond does point out the officer made a mistake. “The arm bar take down that was attempted by that officer was done improperly,” said Diamond.
However, that is a technical point about the way the officer attempted to take the teen into custody. The officer and the teen both ended up on the ground. Diamond says if the officer had used a proper technique, he would have maintained better control of the situation.
In the official report, the officer says he lost his balance when his feet became entangled with the teen’s feet.
Diamond says the officer had every right to detain the teen. He had been previously warned that skateboarding is not legal downtown and the teen ignored the warning. Outside of the mayor’s office on Franklin Street there is damage to the bricks and other building features from other skateboarders and the location is just one block away from police headquarters.
Tampa Police Department spokesman Steve Hegarty says if the teen had complied with the officers requests, the situation would have ended much differently. “If an officer comes up to you and wants to talk to you, to walk away is not a good idea. To resist it when an officer puts a hand on you to arrest you is a bad idea and things don’t go well when that happens,” said Hegarty.
In the video, the person recording the scene asks for the officers name and badge number and then informs him the video is “going on YouTube.”
Diamond says it’s a reality officers now constantly face.
“The officers want to be proactive, they want to enforce the law, they want to maintain peace and control in the community, but at the same time, they are exposed to everybody and their brother with a camera or a cell phone and they are micromanaged by administration because we don’t want to be on national TV,” said Diamond.
The veteran officer says the possibility of being recorded is also having an impact on the decisions officers make every day and the impact could prove deadly.
“When attacked with a lethal weapon we have officers second guessing their own action,” said Diamond.
In the case of the officer arresting the teen for skateboarding, the teen is being charged with resisting arrest. Hegarty says a police department supervisor has seen the video and believes the officer did nothing wrong.
The video has outraged some in Tampa’s skateboarding community. They said the officer was completely out of line.
“A police officer taking down a kid for skating? That shouldn’t be a crime. That’s what these streets are for,” said skateboarder Jake Matthys, who spent the afternoon skating throughout the outskirts of Downtown Tampa.
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