Indiana officer back at work after serving suspension for hitting man in wheelchair


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LAFAYETTE, Indiana — An Indiana police officer who hit a wheelchair user, toppling the man and the chair onto a street, has returned to work despite a department recommendation calling for him to be fired.

Lafayette Police Chief Patrick Flannelly announced Wednesday that his department's entire command staff had recommended that Officer Tom Davidson be terminated for last fall's incident.

The department's Civil Service Commission agreed that Davidson, who was a police lieutenant at the time, had engaged in conduct unbecoming an officer. But rather than firing Davidson they decided to issue a 30-day suspension and place him on supervisory probation for a year, the Journal & Courier reported (http://on.jconline.com/1sWTc7j )

Police were summoned last Oct. 1 after Nicholas Kincade, a 25-year-old who uses a motorized wheelchair, told employees from a charter school nearby that he was armed with a gun. Officers quickly determined that Kincade didn't have a gun, but found a pocket knife Kincade said he carried for protection.

School personnel had asked police to tell Kincade he was no longer welcome near the school and police warned him he could be charged with trespassing if he refused to leave or returned without permission. Flannelly said Kincade had started to leave when his wheelchair collided with Davidson, striking the office's foot and shin.

"The subject was complying at that point in doing what we'd asked him to do," Flannelly said.

The police chief said Davidson responded by using both his hands to strike Kincade in the shoulder. A video police released Wednesday that was recorded by another officer's dashboard camera shows Kincade falling from his wheelchair as it topples. He sustained facial abrasions when he struck the pavement.

"Now you're going to jail," officers said in the video.

"I didn't see you," responded Kincade, lying face-down on the pavement, as two officers begin to handcuff him.

Kincade was arrested for battery against a law enforcement officer, but the charge was dismissed five months later.

Flannelly said Davidson acted "reflexively" when he struck Kincade, but added that the use of force could have been avoided had he simply taken one step out of the way.

Davidson has completed his 30-day suspension and returned to work. But Flannelly said the former lieutenant now serves as a first-class officer in the department's administrative division in order to "put some distance" between the department and the incident.


Information from: Journal and Courier, http://www.jconline.com

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