CINCINNATI — The FBI is investigating an off-duty Cincinnati police officer's use of a Taser on an 11-year-old girl last August for a possible civil rights violation, a police spokesperson confirmed Friday.
Up to now, the Cincinnati Police Department had conducted its own administrative review of the incident, and Chief Eliot Isaac authorized three reprimands for the officer, 55-year-old Kevin Brown. But the feds involvement raises it to a criminal investigation, according to Cincinnati Fraternal Order of Police President Dan Hils.
Hils called it part of "an assault on our cops" and said it is politically motivated.
"Talk about a war on police, Willie," Hils said on Bill Cunningham's talk show on WLW Friday. "The war on police isn't only when people shoot policemen, it's when politicians and even sometimes politicians with things on their collar within the police department take part in allowing this kind of assault on our cops.
"If we're not perfect in the community's eyes, not only are we condemned by politicians who ask for us to be fired ... Somebody must have pushed for this criminal referral and my guess is this has to do with the old ugly word, politics ... They're going after Kevin Brown for political reasons, not true criminal reasons."
Brown, 55, shot the girl in the back with a Taser as she left the Kennard Avenue Kroger store, where Brown was working security. Brown accused the girl of shoplifting and said he stunned her when she walked out of the store and refused his order to stop.
The charges of theft and obstruction against the girl were later dropped and the city and Kroger agreed to pay her family $240,000, according to the family's attorney.
Cincinnati police spokesperson Tiffany Hardy said Friday that the department is cooperating with the FBI investigation. Hardy said no one in the department could speak on the investigation.
Al Gerhardstein, attorney for the girl's family, issued this statement:
“If the family is contacted we will cooperate. But any investigation should also review the broader systemic issue of excessive force against juveniles generally and the extreme racial disparity regarding juvenile arrests.”
On January 25, Cincinnati police announced a revised use-of-force procedure policy that says officers should avoid using a Taser on any people who appear to be "young children, elderly, medically infirm, pregnant or users of a cardiac pacemaker." Before the revision, officers were permitted to use a stun gun on anyone between the ages of 7 and 70 who was "actively resisting arrest when there is probable cause to arrest."
Isaac announced the change in procedure to officers in a department "staff notes" memo . The procedure was revised to align with a 1989 Supreme Court ruling in the case Graham v. Connor, which requires police to meet a standard of "objective reasonableness" when using force.
"Officers should avoid using the TASER on persons who reasonably appear to be, or are known to be, young children, elderly, medically infirm, pregnant, or users of a cardiac pacemaker," the revised procedure states. "Officers are not prohibited from using the TASER on such persons, but use is limited to those exceptional circumstances where the potential benefit of using the TASER (i.e., injury reduction) reasonably outweighs the risks and concerns."
The guidelines for Tasers apply to all less-than-lethal and non-lethal force options. Also, the use-of-force procedure now also reinforces de-escalation techniques "as the preferred method of gaining voluntary compliance." It also permits the use of a beanbag shotgun by sworn department supervisors who are certified by certain groups during annual firearms training.
In a memo to city manager Patrick Duhaney, Isacc wrote that the effort to revise the policy included input from the city law department, FOP Lodge 69 and the Citizens Complaint Authority, as well as a national survey of other use-of-force policies.
After the 11-year-old girl was stunned, Isaac promised a review of his actions and the department's use-of-force policies pertaining to juvenile suspects, though department officials didn't specify in the memo that the revision was related to that incident.