Two Hartford Officers Face Arrest In Prisoner Assault Complaint
JEFFREY B. COHEN
November 13, 2009
HARTFORD — - Police plan to apply for warrants to arrest two officers accused of beating a prisoner on Nov. 1, Chief Daryl K. Roberts said Thursday.
Roberts didn't identify the officers, but sources have said that officers Rhashim Campbell and Kent Lee are under investigation in the assault of Michael Stewart at police headquarters.
A prosecutor and a judge would have to approve the warrant application before any arrests are made.
The chief said an investigation into the two officers began last week after police commanders learned of the assault, which was captured on the department's video monitoring system.
Police say Stewart struck and bit Campbell after the prisoner flooded his cell with water and pushed police officers. Campbell and Lee then allegedly assaulted the prisoner, sources said.
It's not the first time either officer has been investigated by police. Complaint files made available by the city show that Lee has had 14 complaints filed against him with the city's Civilian Police Review Board since 2003. Campbell had one complaint filed with the board.
The board uses independent investigators to look into citizen complaints of police wrongdoing.
The single complaint against Campbell came in 2007, and alleged that Campbell watched as another officer put an intoxicated and belligerent prisoner "up against the wall" and choked him with his forearm, according to review board records. Campbell admitted that he didn't intervene, saying he "did not know how to react."
"Officer Campbell witnessed a clear violation of policy and procedure yet failed to report it to the booking supervisor," police said. The review board sustained the complaint against Campbell. The files don't include information about subsequent discipline.
Some of the 14 complaints against Lee were sustained while others weren't. They include a complaint from a wheelchair-bound amputee at a nursing home who said Lee threatened him with arrest and worked with nursing home officials to wrongly evict him from the home. The review board found that Lee had a "discourteous attitude" toward the patient.
Another complaint came from a woman who said Lee didn't enforce a protective order against her husband. The review board concluded that Lee neglected his duties.
In a complaint from October 2007, a female hospital employee said Lee inappropriately touched her in the emergency room hallway. The woman reported that she was walking by Lee when he grabbed her by the arm "and somewhat forcefully pulled me back to him," asking her why she didn't say hello. He then "tapped my stomach several times with his other hand and said, 'What happened … three years ago you were skinny and now you look fat.'"
The woman, who told police she knew Lee from the hospital, said she was offended by the comment and didn't know how to respond. "He then said, 'You look as if you are pregnant,' while tapping my stomach again," she said in her complaint
At one point, the complainant wrote, Lee "then grabbed the back of my neck and pushed forward, causing my upper body to bend at my waist. While holding me in that position, he sternly said, 'Are you pregnant? Are you?' I felt forced to tell him that I am, even though it is not any concern of his," the complainant said.
In the police department's internal affairs report on the incident, Lt. Paul Cicsinski wrote that the complainant didn't want to press charges, but also didn't want Lee to come around her anymore.Cicskinski wrote that Lee said he "didn't grab her … with any force," and that while he "may have placed his hand on the back of her … head or neck," his intention was not to "inflict any kind of force or harm." Lee conceded that he touched the woman's stomach and made comments about her weight and pregnancy, but said he rubbed her stomach "in an extremely jovial manner."
Cicskinski concluded that "Officer Lee, while on duty, intentionally engaged in behavior that was rude and offensive towards a citizen." He did not sustain a complaint that Lee harassed the woman.
When an independent investigator from McGregor Investigations & Consulting spoke with the complainant for his own report for the police review board, the complainant was more forceful.
"The complainant also believes that Officer Lee's actions of touching her stomach was [sic] inappropriate and boarder [sic] on sexual assault," the report said.
The independent investigator sustained claims of conduct unbecoming an officer, excessive force without arrest, harassment and violation of the police code of conduct. He also recommended "that this complaint be sent back to the Chief of Police for possible criminal misconduct on the part of Officer Kent Lee."
It was not clear Thursday how the civilian board ruled in that case.
Reprinted with permission of the Hartford Courant.
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