UPDATE: City responds to video of Tallahassee arrest causing concern

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Posted: Wednesday, September 11, 2013 2:12 pm | Updated: 12:19 pm, Tue Nov 12, 2013.

UPDATE (September 11, 2013 - 6:10 P.M.)

TALLAHASSEE, Fla. (WTXL) -- There are new questions involving the the controversial video showing the August 10 arrest of a suspected drunk driving by Tallahassee police.

Our media partners at the Tallahassee Democrat obtained dash cam video from the early morning of August 10. That's when Christina West was arrested on a charge of DUI and several counts of battery on law-enforcement officers. She's accused of driving her car off the road and then crashing into a home in Killearn.

The video shows 44-year-old West, who is 5 foot 6 and 130 pounds, being slammed into the police car and then the pavement. She can be heard screaming in pain as she is being restrained.

During Wednesday's regularly scheduled commission meeting, Mayor John Marks along with commissioners Scott Maddox and Andrew Gillum asked why it took so long for them to learn about the case and what is being done to correct the problems.

Maddox called the video "disturbing" and said it opens the city up to a "potential" lawsuit. The statements were reportedly made in emails from Maddox to other city leaders, and obtained by WTXL media partner Tallahassee Democrat.

(VIDEO)

Tallahassee attorney Fred Conrad, who is representing Christina West, told the Tallahassee Democrat that West is the victim of police brutality and he intends to pursue compensation for West, though he didn't explicitly say he would be filing a lawsuit. Conrad says West suffered a broken orbital bone in her face and other injuries during her arrest on a DUI charge.

Photos taken of West in the hours after her arrest shows West bloody and bruised.

"Anytime anyone in our care is injured that is very upsetting to us," said Officer David Northway, spokesman for Tallahassee Police Department. "We've all seen the video, we understand it's hard to see what's on the video. What we ask is that we are given the time to investigate the crime all the way through from start to finish."

Tuesday night the city posted the entire 45 minute long dash cam video showing the arrest. Chief Dennis Jones says an internal investigation is now on going.

"We are concerned any time an individual is injured while in police custody," said Tallahassee Police Chief Dennis Jones.  "Our job is to serve and protect, and that includes victims and suspects. We regret that Ms. West was injured," Chief Jones said. "We train our officers in appropriate use of force procedures and my job as Chief is to gather all the facts to determine the appropriateness in this case."

The two officers involved in the case have been placed on paid administrative leave pending the outcome of that investigation.

(SEE FULL CITY RESPONSE BELOW)

(READ MORE ABOUT THE CASE BELOW)

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UPDATE (September 10, 2013 - 6:23 P.M.)

TALLAHASSEE, Fla. (WTXL/Tallahassee Democrat) -- A new video is surfacing and it has Tallahassee city leaders looking into whether police officers went too far during an arrest of a woman accused of drunk driving.

(Full City response below)

Our media partners at the Tallahassee Democrat obtained dash cam video from the early morning of August 10. That's when Christina West was arrested on a charge of DUI and several counts of battery on law-enforcement officers. She's accused of driving her car off the road and into a home in Killearn.

In the video it shows 44-year-old West, who is 5 foot 6 and 130 pounds, being slammed into the police car and then the pavement. She can be heard screaming in pain as she is being restrained.

VIDEO (Raw video of traffic stop is below)

In a photo taken after her arrest, obtained by Tallahassee Democrat, West can be seen bloody and bruised.

It's that photo and the video of her arrest that has at least one city commissioner, Scott Maddox, demanding answers.

"The video was taken from the police car and shows the road side sobriety test as well as the arrest of the subject," Maddox wrote in an email obtained by the Democrat to City Manager Anita Favors Thompson and City Attorney Lew Shelley. "it also shows DISTURBING use of force against a completely non aggressive arrestee. It is my belief that the city of Tallahassee will soon face a liability lawsuit based on the content of the video."

The Tallahassee Democrat reports Maddox says he was contacted by State Attorney Willie Meggs about the video.

VIDEO (Provided by Tallahassee Police Department)

"I am extremely upset," Meggs told the Tallahassee Democrat. "It is very disturbing. This is a very disturbing situation to me, and I'm dealing with it."

Meggs says he has dropped the charges of battery on a law-enforcement officer against West, but has not made any decision on the DUI charges.

Tallahassee attorney Fred Conrad, who is representing Christina West, told the Tallahassee Democrat that West was the victim of police brutality and he intends to pursue compensation for West, though he didn't explicitly say he would be filing a lawsuit. Conrad says West suffered a broken orbital bone in her face and other injuries during her arrest on a DUI charge.

“I was shocked to see this,” Conrad said. “I would never have expected that out of my police department. By and large, most of my officers that I deal with at the Tallahassee Police Department and the Sheriff’s Office are all professional and good cops, folks that I would feel very comfortable with in the event that I needed them as a citizen. This was disturbing. I could not believe that I saw that happening in Tallahassee, Florida.”

Conrad said the video raises concerns about officer training at TPD.

"I question the type of training and policies in place at TPD that would lead officers to believe this type of behavior is acceptable," he said, "especially in front of two sergeants who were only a few feet away."

UPDATE (7:48 P.M.)

City Releases Details on DUI / Use of Force Incident

At 2:10 a.m. on Saturday, August 10, Tallahassee Police Department patrol officers were called to the area of Delaney Drive and Kilkenny Way in northeast Tallahassee, regarding a vehicle crashing into a house at 3501 Kilkenny Drive.  Responding officers located the driver - Ms. Christina West - who stated she was returning from Panama City, FL. While turning onto Limerick Drive from Delaney Drive, Ms. West appeared to have accelerated, missing the right turn at Kilkenny Drive. The vehicle continued straight striking a light pole, stop sign, and continued forward into the yard of 3501 Kilkenny Drive, finally striking the house.  Ms. West had three students in her vehicle (all under the age of 18) at the time of the crash. Ms. West said the three were foreign exchange students.

The vehicle came to rest inside the master bedroom of the residence. The owners were not home at the time of the incident.  A City of Tallahassee utility crew responded to secure live wires from the light pole.  During the subsequent investigation of the crash, Ms. West failed a sobriety test and she reported she had been taking prescription medication while drinking alcoholic beverages prior to the accident.  Ms. West was initially arrested without incident, but was removed from the car when it was discovered she had slipped her hands out of the handcuffs.  At that time, she resisted arrest, and a struggle ensued in which Ms. West was restrained on the ground in order to facilitate the placement of handcuffs.  Ms. West was taken to Leon County Jail where she was recommended for medical treatment.  She was then transported to the Tallahassee Memorial Hospital (TMH) for medical clearance, which she received before being transported back to jail for processing. Ms. West sustained a broken orbital bone along with scrapes and bruises to her body.

At TMH, while being cared for by the hospital staff, Ms. West continued disruptive behavior that resulted in charges for assault being filed against her by the nurse on duty. 

The officers completed a use of force report documenting the incident, per department policy. 

"We are concerned any time an individual is injured while in police custody," said Tallahassee Police Chief Dennis Jones.  "Our job is to serve and protect, and that includes victims and suspects. We regret that Ms. West was injured.

"We train our officers in appropriate use of force procedures and my job as Chief is to gather all the facts to determine the appropriateness in this case," Jones said.

Chief Jones has called for an internal investigation, which will include interviews with all the individuals on the scene that night and at the hospital.  It will also include reviewing the video to better determine exactly what happened.  From a law enforcement perspective, the purpose is to have all the facts of the case so that the chief can take the appropriate action. 

The case was sent to the State Attorney, which is standard procedure.  In this case, the State Attorney's office made the decision to dismiss the charges of assault on a police officer(s) as well as charges for assault filed against Ms. West by the nurse at Tallahassee Memorial Hospital.  The remaining charge of Driving Under the Influence (DUI) is awaiting toxicology results. 

"We understand that the video is disturbing to watch and it is for us too.  We use cameras to help capture events such as this and are making the entire video available as we continue our internal investigation," said Jones.   

The city has posted the 45-minute video of the incident, the Probable Cause Affidavit and the Use of Force Report on the city's website talgov.com/TPD.  The probable cause affidavit and use of force report are also attached and the video may also be accessed on the Police Department YouTube site .

UPDATE: On September 11, 2013 Tallahassee Police Department posted the following video response their Youtube Page.

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