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OPD Chief Val Demings: Takedown move that broke elderly man's neck 'within department guidelines'

OPD Chief Val Demings on Friday said the takedown maneuver that broke an elderly man's neck in September and raised questions about police tactics was properly performed.

"After review of the defensive tactic form by the training staff and Officer [Travis] Lamont's chain of command, it appears the officer performed the technique within department guidelines," Demings said in a statement.

Demings' statement signals the conclusion of the department's investigation into the incident however, she said the Police Department has "begun the process of reviewing the use of force policy and will make appropriate modifications."

Police reports indicate that Lamont knocked 84-year-old Daniel Daley to the ground on Sept. 18 in what officers describe as a "dynamic takedown" when the man became belligerent about his car getting towed.

Lamont told Daley he had to pay a $50 fine to release his car from the tow truck. Daley, who had been inside a nearby bar when the tow truck started to remove the vehicle, argued with the officer and that led to the heated confrontation.

The Orange-Osceola State Attorney's Office declined to press charges against Daley.

However, the WWII veteran's family said it intends to file a lawsuit against the Police Department.

The incident has raised questions about Lamont's reaction, with some saying the officer went too far in his actions.

Daley's attorney, Mark NeJame, said he was not surprised the police department justified the technique.

"An acknowledgement that the policy was broken would be tantamount to an admission of liability, which they'd be loath to acknowledge," NeJame said.

In September, Demings said the department made 16,000 arrests in 2009. A total of 200 of those arrests — or less than 2 percent — involved the "dynamic takedown" technique.

Police had received a series of 911 calls around 10:20 p.m. as the 26-year-old officer confronted Daley. One caller indicated that Lamont had "[flipped] Daley through the air on his face" during the incident.

However, the police reports describe a less aggressive move. In a supervisor's evaluation, also released Friday, Lamont said he performed an "arm bar takedown."

The report gives a step-by-step breakdown of the move, which involved Lamont grabbing Daley's right hand with his left hand and putting his right forearm behind Daley's left elbow, "leveraging the subject's arm, placing him in an arm bar."

At the same time, the officer pivoted, lowering his right knee while pressing down on Daley's right arm.

"The subject was directed down to the ground and during the takedown, the top, right side of the subject's forehead impacted the ground followed by the rest of the body," the report said.

The officer called for medical help after noticing swelling and minor bleeding on the top right side of Daley's head, the report said.

The evaluation also notes that a witness saw Daley touch Lamont several times on the shoulders before the takedown, even after Lamont advised Daley to stop.

NeJame denies that 6-foot, 168-pound Daley attacked the 5-foot, 6-inch, 170-pound Lamont.

If Daley did indeed touch or strike the officer, it would have been reasonable for the officer to respond to an act that is considered battery under the terms of Florida law, according to Rande Matteson, chair of the criminal-justice department at St. Leo University in Lakeland.

Police acknowledge that Lamont could have taken Daley's age into consideration before performing the "dynamic takedown."

Demings said in September that although Lamont used the takedown maneuver properly, he could have considered other factors, including the man's age, in determining whether to apply the technique.

The Police Department hired Lamont in December 2008. Since then, the agency's internal-affairs division has investigated the officer three times.

Records show he damaged his patrol car twice and received reprimands. He also wrongly arrested a man on a simple-battery charge and had to ask a judge to release that man from jail. He received a written reprimand in that incident.

Copyright © 2010, Orlando Sentinel

Source: Orlando Sentinel

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