Judge upholds board's firing of patrol officer who hit prisoner Court's ruling supports excessive-force finding

July 14, 1998|By Andrea F. Siegel | Andrea F. Siegel,SUN STAFF

Annapolis police were correct in firing an officer who hit a prisoner in the forehead with a metal baton, an Anne Arundel County judge ruled yesterday.

"Candidly, and sadly," the facts support the police trial board's excessive-force finding and recommendation to fire Patrol Officer Wilbert Strickland, Circuit Judge Joseph P. Manck wrote.

Police Chief Joseph S. Johnson fired Strickland on Dec. 5 after the three-member board decided Nov. 19 that he had used excessive force when he hit a prisoner during an Aug. 8, 1997, arrest. In January, Strickland appealed the firing and said he was not aiming for the prisoner's head.

The suspect 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 agitated when he was 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. Strickland said he used his baton because the man rose in a threatening way.

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 nearly nine years.

Pub Date: 7/14/98

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