Video: NL officer under investigation after allegedly striking cuffed man
New London — A summer 2016 incident, in which Patrol Officer Deana Nott appears to have struck a handcuffed man in the face and then told him to “cry about it,” has prompted two investigations into her behavior — one by city police and the other by the Chief State's Attorney's Office.
According to documents obtained by The Day, the incident occurred on June 22, 2016. Police responded to 17 Grand St. shortly after noon that day for a reported fight.
On arrival, Nott and Officer Patricia Kehler found a man later identified as Adonis Smith running out of the building from which yelling and “scuffling” noises had been emanating. According to an incident report written by Nott, Smith, “sweating and out of breath,” pushed past Nott with both hands. The impact caused her to stumble backward from the stairs where she had been standing.
Nott grabbed Smith’s arm and held him as Officer Christopher Bunkley arrived on scene. According to Nott’s report, Bunkley drew his Taser — he pointed its laser at Smith but never fired it — and worked with Nott and Kehler to handcuff Smith.
At that point, Kehler went inside to check for victims. Nott and Bunkley moved to place Smith in the back of a cruiser, but Smith resisted.
According to Nott, as Bunkley pushed Smith from the passenger side, she went to the driver’s side to pull. She said she had to reach for Smith more than once because he was sweaty. After he made noises suggesting he was going to spit, Nott wrote, “I struck out my right arm in a slapping manner to deflect any spit that was intended for me.”
Video footage of the incident, wrought with colorful language, paints a different picture.
Taken from a camera in the rear driver’s side of the cruiser, the footage shows Smith resisting as officers repeatedly urge him to “get in the car.” Smith responds to each request by calling the officers obscenities.
Once seated, Smith keeps his legs outside the car, preventing officers from closing the passenger side door. Nott reaches in from the driver’s side, grabbing the neckline of Smith’s T-shirt before latching both hands around Smith’s face and pulling.
As Nott pulls, she and Smith exchange expletives. With Smith's feet now in the cruiser, Bunkley closes the passenger side door.
"What are you gonna do?" Nott asks.
With her left hand, she appears to strike him in the face.
"What are you gonna do?" she asks again. "What are you gonna do?"
Smith looks shocked.
"You punched me in my face b----," he says.
Nott points a finger at him.
"Cry about it," she says.
In her incident report, Nott doesn’t mention that Smith sustained injuries. She does mention in a supplemental report filed the next day that she was injured during the arrest. In that report, Nott said she hit her left hand on the cruiser’s cage and received a laceration that later bruised.
According to Sgt. Scott Johnson’s Oct. 22 review of the incident, Nott’s actions left Smith with a small laceration inside his lower lip and a laceration on the bridge of his nose.
Johnson also wrote that it’s “probable that her injury was sustained during contact with Smith’s mouth.”
He concluded that Bunkley’s intentional pointing of the Taser was justified, but Nott’s hand strike was not.
Lt. Jeffrey Kalolo’s review, filed the same day, reaches the same conclusion. Kalolo wrote that he had prepared a supervisor’s complaint against Nott for using physical force to an excessive degree.
According to acting Chief Peter Reichard, the department — headed by former Chief Margaret Ackley at the time — transferred the case to the New London State’s Attorney’s Office after the October reviews.
Reichard said the New London office then transferred the case to the Chief State’s Attorney’s Office, where the investigation remains open.
Mark Dupuis, spokesman for the chief state’s attorney, said he wasn’t able to provide an update on the investigation because the person he would need to contact is on vacation until Monday.
Reichard said the chief state’s attorney after some time permitted the department to begin its own investigation. Reichard said that investigation also is active. Because of that, he would not comment on the specifics of Nott’s case.
Nott, a member of the city police union’s executive board, remains on duty pending the outcome of the criminal and the internal affairs investigations.
Union President Todd Lynch said local union leadership, as well as leadership from the larger AFSCME Council 4, is representing Nott, as they would with any employee.
“As the president of the union, I find it troubling that evidence from an internal and criminal investigation has found its way into the hands of the media before those investigations are concluded,” Lynch said. “It shows a bias against one of our bargaining unit members.”
According to Reichard, a use of force policy the department implemented in 2015 is the reason the incident was reviewed in the first place.
Under the policy, officers who use force must fill out a form documenting what they did and why. In each case, a sergeant investigates the incident and determines whether the force was justified.
Supervisors then review the sergeant’s findings and decide what action, if any, needs to be taken next.
In 2015, Reichard said, city police used force 107 times. In 2016, they did so 76 times. So far this year, the number is 33.
“The levels of use of force have decreased in the last two-and-a-half years,” Reichard said, adding that officers are trained on use of force each year at the same time they complete mandatory firearms training. “What I see coming across my desk in terms of paperwork has gone down drastically,” he said.
In a July 2015 profile of Nott, Nott boasted about being tough.
"I'm not that female who's going to turn around and walk away," she told Day Staff Writer Karen Florin.
Later, she cautioned, "Don't mistake my kindness for weakness.”
Reichard couldn’t immediately determine how many complaints have been filed against Nott since she started working for the department about 17 years ago.
In 2008, Waterford police charged Nott with breach of peace after she allegedly slapped a man who had insulted her at Sunset Ribs. A Norwich Superior Court judge granted her accelerated rehabilitation and on Oct. 15, 2008, dismissed her case.
Records show that Smith, whom police charged with third-degree assault, breach of peace and interfering with an officer, was convicted in January of third-degree assault. He was sentenced to one year in jail with execution suspended after six months followed by one year of probation.
WARNING: Video contains profanity.
Note: The video is shot from the driver's side so that what you're seeing is a mirror image.
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