Police officer fired from Annapolis force sues to get job back Board found he used excessive force on prisoner

January 06, 1998|By Andrea F. Siegel | Andrea F. Siegel,SUN STAFF

A fired Annapolis police officer who had been reprimanded and demoted previously has sued to get his job back.

Patrol Officer Wilbert Strickland was fired by Police Chief Joseph S. Johnson Dec. 5 after a police trial board decided Nov. 19 that he had used excessive force and hit a prisoner in the forehead with his metal baton. The three-person board unanimously recommended firing him.

Strickland filed the appeal of that decision Friday in Anne Arundel County Circuit Court.

"It was one of those things. He wasn't aiming at the guy's head. [The prisoner] was hit only once. If the guy had been hit four or five times, you could say it wasn't an accident, but it was only once," said Michael Marshall, Strickland's lawyer.

He said the prisoner, who was being arrested Aug. 8, had a history of being combative and had lunged at Strickland. Under those circumstances, departments generally do not charge their officers, said Marshall, who represents police elsewhere.

City Attorney Paul Goetzke said similar arguments did not impress the trial board.

The prisoner was being arrested on charges of burglary, violating a restraining order to keep away from his father's house, resisting arrest and striking another police officer.

The handcuffed prisoner was still agitated when he was being placed in Strickland's cruiser, according to the trial board's report. Other officers told the tribunal that he did not move or barely moved, but Strickland said he used his baton because the man rose in a threatening way.

The suspect suffered a gash on his forehead and refused treatment at Anne Arundel Medical Center, Goetzke said.

Strickland had been disciplined five times by the department, according to the trial board report, three times for being late to work and once for a "preventable accident."

The last time, he "was demoted and was suspended for 30 days for illegally tape-recording conversations with superior officers," the report said. Other documents in his personnel file complimented him.

Strickland, a Baltimore resident, had been a member of the force for nine years.

In 1995, while off duty, Strickland exchanged gunfire with a man who tried to steal his car. No one was injured. At the time, his job was training young officers.

Pub Date: 1/06/98

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