New London police suspend Nott for 2016 use of force
New London — The city police department last week wrapped up its investigation into Officer Deana Nott by suspending her for excessive use of force, according to police Chief Peter Reichard.
Police launched an internal affairs investigation into Nott because she allegedly struck a handcuffed man in the face in June 2016. The man in question, Adonis Smith, had just beaten up another man inside 17 Grand St. Smith later was convicted of third-degree assault in the case.
Footage gleaned from the inside rear of a cruiser shows Officer Christopher Bunkley pushing a handcuffed Smith from the passenger side as Nott pulls from the driver’s side. Smith, hurling profanities at the officers, sticks a foot out the door for about 10 seconds so Bunkley can’t close it.
By the time Nott appears to hit Smith in the face, Smith is fully in the cruiser. When Smith calls her out for hitting him, she points a finger at him and says, "Cry about it."
Police administrators learned about the incident because of a 2015 policy that requires officers to fill out a form every time they use force. In addition to Nott's use of hands during the arrest, Bunkley additionally had pulled but not deployed a Taser on Smith.
According to internal police documents, Nott noted that Smith had sustained two facial lacerations in the incident but failed to mention how in her report. She said her own injury — a laceration-turned-bruise on the left hand — happened when she hit the cruiser's cage.
In October 2016, two of Nott’s supervisors determined her use of force was out of line. Sgt. Scott Johnson additionally wrote it was “probable that her injury was sustained during contact with Smith’s mouth.”
Because of their findings, the case made its way to the Chief State’s Attorney’s Office. That investigation remains active, meaning Nott still could be criminally charged for her actions.
Reichard on Tuesday didn’t know off the top of his head how long Nott’s suspension is slated to last. Reached by phone Wednesday, Elliot Spector, Nott’s attorney, said he believes it is a seven-day suspension.
Reichard couldn’t be reached for confirmation Wednesday.
Spector said the suspension is “more than a just punishment” and he hopes Nott does not face criminal charges.
“I’ve heard people say she does more than anybody else to go out of her way to help others,” Spector said of his client. “This incident is not a significant incident, and I would hope it wouldn't affect her career in any way.”
Nott has been with the city department for more than 17 years and, until last month's biennial election, was a member of the police union's executive board.
Union President Todd Lynch earlier this year expressed concern that documents from an ongoing internal investigation had reached the public sphere. Because Nott has been disciplined and still could face criminal charges, however, Lynch declined to comment Wednesday.
In a December update posted to its webpage, the union thanked Nott for her service.
Spector characterized Nott’s hand strike as a “spontaneous” thing that happened after Smith already had pushed her — a detail corroborated by officers’ reports.
“It’s unfortunate, but it happened,” he said. “Police officers are people, and people make mistakes.”
Spector pointed out that Smith never lodged a complaint against Nott in the case.
“Deana has been suffering with this hanging over her head for I believe 18 months,” he said. “In most places, police officers for something like this probably would've gotten less (of a punishment). I think she has paid the price for this one-second mistake, and I hope it would end here.”
State police additionally are involved in the case, which only became public after someone leaked documents about it to The Day. The documents are being considered stolen from the department, and Central District Major Crime detectives are trying to find the leaker.
On Wednesday, state police spokeswoman Trooper 1st Class Kelly Grant said that investigation also is ongoing.
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