UPDATE: Battling for their badges back: fired Chattanooga officers' hearing
By Matt Barbour, Weekend Anchor/Reporter - bio | email
CHATTANOOGA, TN (WRCB) -
Two former Chattanooga Police officers are hoping to wear the badge once again. Sean Emmer and Adam Cooley were fired following a complaint of excessive force, which sent halfway house inmate, Adam Tatum, to the hospital. No criminal charges were filed. Now, they want their jobs back.
Testimony in the hearings wrapped up Wednesday. On the final day, the majority of the testimony came from officer Phillip McClain. McClain oversees the training of Chattanooga Police officers, which included Emmer and Cooley's.
Despite the defense's efforts to say the officers used department tactics in their scuffle with Tatum, McClain seemed to agree with Chief Dodd that their actions were over the top.
"For the most part, if I had to break this down, I would say ninety percent of the time, I would say Mr. Tatum's actions are very passive," says McClain.
Officer Phillip McClain says after reviewing the surveillance video taken from the Salvation Army halfway house last June, it is clear Sean Emmer and Adam Cooley used excessive force. While the defense says Tatum was actively resisting arrest, McClain sees it differently.
"I liken it to, a child getting whooped with switch. My intention was never to kick my grandmother when she whooped me, my intention was to fend off the switch," says McClain.
The defense says Emmer and Cooley were up against several obstacles with Tatum, saying he was high on cocaine and the room was filled with pepper spray, which can affect an officer's ability to assess what is going on. Even so, McClain says there were opportunities to put Tatum in cuffs.
"It doesn't matter how big or how strong you are, even with the level, the low level of resistance that you feel that Mr. Tatum exhibited, I should still be able to push that cuff on you wrist, getting one cuff on," says McClain.
Despite the defense arguing at one point Tatum had a knife, McClain says the officers did not act like it, which city attorneys pointed out.
City Attorney Phil Noblett asked McClain,"A police officer is generally thought to stay back from a suspect if they think they're a danger as far as a person having a weapon, is that correct?"
McClain answered, "Our saying in this field is 'distance is your friend.'"
The judge overseeing the case has 90 days to finalize a decision. Depending on the outcome, either side can file an appeal in chancery court.Two Chattanooga Police officers, officers Sean Emmer and Adam Cooley, accused of using excessive force, were fired last year.
Channel 3 Eyewitness News Reporter Matt Barbour was at the hearing and was tweeting updates throughout the day. Follow him @MattBarbourWRCB
Tweets are in chronological order, with the newest at top.
McClain just testified in Tatum scenario, it would have been more ideal for Emmer to draw his weapon and give verbal commands until the number of officers was in his favor.
McClain wraps up questioning from defense by saying, ultimately, only the officer can gauge what are the best tactics in a given fight.
Back in the Cooley/Emmer hearing after a lunch break. Cooley's attorney now questioning training officer Phillip McClain.
Earlier, when asked if Tatum was trying to get up...McClain says he was just defending himself from blows.
McClain testifies there were never any earnest attempts to cuff Tatum. Says he was passive 90% of the time.
McClain now reviewing video surveillance, step by step, blow by blow.
With that said, McClain says he doesn't believe Tatum's statements were truthful throughout entire scuffle.
Defense tries to establish, "officers are trained not believe what a suspect says." McClain says not true.
McClain agrees Tatum was showing 'defensive resistance'...which is not always dangerous to officers, he says.
McClain testifies if Emmer truly believed Tatum possibly had a weapon, he should not have been so close to Tatum. He teaches 30 ft. rule.
McClain says a baton is not to be used as a pain compliance tactic, as defense is trying to prove. McClain says for joint manipulation.
Defense now bringing up factors of critical incident amnesia...saying it makes it difficult for officers to immediately recall events.
Defense attorneys bringing up factor of tunnel vision again...say it makes it difficult for an officer to assess threat of suspect.
Defense attorneys played the training video of Cooley to show his performance while sprayed with OC. McClain says he did well.
Defense attorneys trying to establish that OC spray can affect an officer's performance. McClain says they're trained to "fight through it."
Officer Phillip McClain now taking the stand. He's involved in training other officers.
When asked if she had ever been trained to repeat actions like punching, Tate says no. Her questioning is now over.
Tate says she did not witness a beating...and it did not play a role in her leaving the dept. when asked by city attorney.
Tate is reviewing the statement she gave about that night. Says she observed Tatum in the hospital and he appeared "highly intoxicated."
Tate says Cooley was giving verbal commands. Says she saw the struggle with Tatum and that he was resisting.
Tate is recalling the night she was called to the Salvation Army for back up to the fight. When she got there, she was told to secure a door.
Latoya Tate now being called as a witness. She was a patrol officer who worked with Adam Cooley.
Cooley/Emmer's attorneys point out Wenger was never fired...he was later promoted.
City attorney trying to prove Wenger is bias in the case. He's been sued before. His case was settled out of court.
The detective, Michael Wenger, admits on the stand he was disciplined in the past for excessive force for 28 days.
Detective says his investigation was strictly criminal...not to analyze whether or not Tatum was resisting arrest.
A detective with the major crimes division is testifying about his review of the Adam Tatum beating.
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