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Video of 2018 arrest shows KDPS officer kneeling on man's head

Warning: Video may be difficult to watch
Posted at 11:14 PM, Jun 19, 2020
and last updated 2020-06-20 04:42:42-04

KALAMAZOO, Mich. — Chief Thomas of the Kalamazoo Department of Public Safety says the department is taking responsibility for an arrest shown in a video where a white officer knelt their shin on the head of a black man during a 2018 arrest.

The arrest happened at Bronson Park around 6 p.m. on September 19th, 2018, but the video is just recently resurfacing. The video was given to FOX 17 by KDPS. Be aware; it may be difficult to watch.

According to Chief Thomas, the park was taped off with police tape and closed to the public when a man tried to enter. The man was stopped by KDPS officers, who tried to cite him for crossing visible police lines. The release given to FOX 17 Friday says the man refused to give his real name and tried to walk away from the police several times before they could get his identity.

According to KDPS, after warning the man they would detain him if he didn't stay and cooperate, the KDPS officers tried to handcuff the man to keep him from walking away. At this point the man tried to get away again and a KDPS officer forced him to the ground, placing their shin on the man's head to keep him still while they handcuffed him.

The video starts as the man is already on the ground. One KDPS officer is handcuffing the man and the other can be seen with their shin on the man's head. Once the man is handcuffed, the officers pull him to his feet and walk him towards their cruiser. A woman can be heard screaming off camera during the arrest.

"The incident in this video did take place in Kalamazoo and we acknowledge and accept responsibility for it. We understand the urgent need for equity in law enforcement." Thomas told FOX 17. "We know that this is what our community demands of us, and what we must demand of ourselves."

The report also shows the man initially stated he was injured, but later refused to talk to the supervisor called in to check him. Thomas says KDPS checked him for injuries, but found none visible.

At the time of the arrest an investigation into the use of force determined the officer did not violate KDPS policy at the time because they did not touch the man's neck or block his airway. KPDS's use of force policies are a part of the external investigation launched by the Kalamazoo City Manager last week.

Body camera footage from the officers is not available from the arrest. Current policy states footage from incidents where force is used must be kept for 4 years, but at the time footage was only required to be kept for 63 days.

"We will look at policies and actions through an equity lens to ensure that our actions are fair, equitable and responsive for our community.” Thomas said.