The entire command staff of the police department in Lafayette, Indiana recommended Lt. Tom Davidson be fired for shoving a man in a wheelchair onto the street last year, but the department’s Civil Service Commission decided instead to issue a 30-day suspension and place the officer on supervisory probation for a year.
Police Chief Patrick Flannelly made that revelation Tuesday as he released a dashcam video of the Oct. 1 wheelchair incident, nine months after it happened.
In the video, Lt. Tom Davidson, who has been on the force since 1995, is engaged in a conversation with Nicholas Kincade, 25, who uses a motorized wheelchair.
Police say officers were called to the scene after Kincade told employees from a charter school nearby that he was armed with a gun. Officers quickly determined there was no gun, but did find a pocket knife Kincade carried for protection.
Police warned him he could be charged with trespassing if he refused to leave or returned without permission. As Kincade began to roll away, one of his wheels struck the officer’s foot.
“The subject was complying at that point in doing what we’d asked him to do,” Flannelly said.
Davidson responded by giving Kincade “a two-handed strike, open handed” to the right shoulder.
The video shows the wheelchair toppling over and Kincade falling to the ground. He sustained facial abrasions.
“Now you’re going to jail,” officers said in the video.
“I didn’t see you,” responded Kincade, face-down on the pavement, as two officers begin to handcuff him.
Flannelly said Davidson acted “reflexively” but that the use of force could have been avoided if he had simply stepped out of the way and allowed Kincade to pass.
Kincade was charged with battery against a law enforcement officer, a Class D felony, but the charge was dismissed five months later.
The commission determined Davidson had engaged in conduct unbecoming of an officer but shot down a second allegation against Davidson, voting 3-2 that the officer’s use of force was within the bounds set by department rules.
“That vote fails to find him in violation of department rules and regulations governing the use of force in response to resistance or aggression,” said Rick Hobbs, commission president.
The former lieutenant completed his 30-day suspension and now has an administrative position within the department.