Why is officer accused of excessive force still on the street?

You don't need to watch the leaked video of New London Patrol Officer Deana Nott hitting a handcuffed prisoner in the back of a cruiser to know that she shouldn't be on patrol duty while the matter is investigated.

All you need to know is that two separate internal department reviews of the incident by two officers — a sergeant and lieutenant — concluded that Nott's strike on the man in custody was not justified.

The prisoner was belligerent, swearing and threatening to spit on Nott. But he was handcuffed and already in the cruiser.

After the internal reviews concluded unnecessary force, the matter was sent on, following department policy, to the New London State's Attorney's Office, which sent it on to the Chief State's Attorney's Office.

And that's where it remains, incredibly, more than a year later, still under investigation.

Meanwhile, Nott, who once was arrested, herself, after allegedly slapping a customer at a Waterford bar, is still on duty without having been either exonerated or charged.

The black man arrested that day back in June 2016 was swiftly charged, eventually sentenced and incarcerated.

The officer who was found by two supervising colleagues to have used excessive force in the arrest is still on patrol despite the criminal investigation.

I tend to agree with some of the readers of The Day, who, after watching the video of Nott's strike, concluded that it was insignificant and not unreasonable given the prisoner's continuing physical resistance and verbal abuse.

If that's the conclusion of the investigation by the Chief State's Attorney and another internal investigation by New London police still — incredibly — ongoing, then fine. Life goes on and Nott stays on patrol.

But lacking that kind of conclusion from the ongoing, yearlong investigation, the only conclusion on the record is that she used force without justification.

This is troubling on many levels, including the fact that she is on the city police union's executive board. Does that make her immune from discipline?

That's certainly part of the bad optics in all this.

More alarming is the city's liability here.

Imagine the glee of any lawyer hired to bring suit on behalf of any new prisoner accusing Nott of excessive force.

Showing that the city put her back on patrol without resolving internal conclusions that her use of excessive force was not justified would add immensely to the negligence in any new case and put the city in much more legal jeopardy.

I thought the city had a risk manager to prevent this kind of exposure to liability. Does the city's insurer know?

The other troubling aspect to Nott's involvement in the arrest last June was that she claimed in a report that an injury she sustained was the result of her hitting her hand on the cruiser's cage.

The sergeant who reviewed the incident, however, claimed that it was "probable" that the injury to her hand occurred because of the contact with the mouth of the prisoner, who also was injured.

So the sergeant concluded that Nott used excessive force without good cause and then probably lied about it.

I asked a deputy chief state's attorney why this investigation has dragged on so long and got a no comment. Honestly, why in the world could it take so long? They have a video of the incident, and the laws and policies are clear.

Connecticut citizens, not just New Londoners, should be outraged to know that the prosecution of street criminals proceeds swiftly and efficiently, while accusations against law enforcement officers can drift along for more than a year without consequence or conclusion.

It's an unacceptable imbalance and undermines confidence in the fairness of the entire system.

This is the opinion of David Collins.

d.collins@theday.com

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