SARASOTA - A 15-year veteran with the Sarasota Police Department is on administrative leave after a video shows him using what some are calling "excessive force" on a homeless person.
It happened on October 6th. And now, almost two months later, the incident has prompted an internal investigation.
52-year-old homeless man Roger Alan Fields was sent to the hospital before being sent to jail after suffering a laceration to his head. It happened when Officer Derrick Gilbert threw him into a metal railing in an attempt to put him in handcuffs.
But was it excessive force? You be the judge.
Authorities responded to the downtown bus station that day after they say Fields started yelling profanity at a female bus driver, and spit in a security guard’s face. Moments later, Officer Gilbert is seen on the video attempting to put handcuffs on Fields. Police say he resisted. That's when Fields lands right into the railing.
Fields was charged with resisting without violence and disorderly conduct.
Sarasota city manager Tom Barwin released a statement on Thursday saying: “What I saw on the videotape was very concerning. I contacted the police department to ensure an internal affairs investigation is opened immediately. Sworn officers have been counseled repeatedly to treat all others with respect and dignity at all times, even under trying and challenging circumstances. Anything less is unacceptable and will not be tolerated.”
“Another disappointing incident for the SPD, but not surprising given the culture that exists within the department,” says Michael Barfield of the Sarasota ACLU.
Over recent weeks, the department has made several headlines for run ins with the homeless. Earlier this month, an officer arrested a homeless man for charging his cell phone at a public park. Then, just days ago, the ACLU released cell phone texting transcripts indicating some police officers call themselves ‘bum hunters’.
“When police interact with homeless individuals, they need to be sensitive to the fact that they have rights too,” says Barfield.
Officer Gilbert has been placed on Administrative Leave during the investigation.