DETROIT (AP) — A Detroit police corporal has been suspended after cellphone video emerged showing him beating a naked, unarmed and possibly mentally ill woman inside an emergency room triage unit as another officer and hospital security restrained her.
The video posted on WJBK-TV’s website shows the male officer punching the woman about a dozen times on Wednesday at Detroit Receiving Hospital.
She can be heard shouting a threat at someone before being grabbed by one of the police officers and security staff. The male officer then began punching her.
What is shown on the video is “very disturbing,” Detroit police Chief James Craig told reporters Thursday, adding that a criminal investigation has begun.
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“There were points where the suspect had turned her back, but the officer continued to punch,” Craig said. “It was at that point we had grave concerns for the officer’s actions.”
A police watchdog group on Thursday called for charges against the officer and said he and others like him need to be taken off the streets.
“When we looked at the video, we saw an officer with corporal stripes who had total disdain for a citizen who was obviously ill,” said Kenneth Reed, a spokesman for the Detroit Coalition Against Police Brutality, wrote in an email. “The hatred was palpable. These are officers who must be held to a higher standard.”
Wayne County prosecutor’s office spokeswoman Maria Miller said that if and when the police department sends a warrant request for the officer’s arrest, her office will follow its usual procedure in police-involved cases by conducting a separate and independent investigation before making a charging decision.
The corporal is an 18-year veteran of the police department “who has a good record,” said Craig, who declined to provide the officer’s name.
He and his partner took the woman to the hospital Wednesday evening after responding to a report of a “lewd and lascivious” person, Craig said.
The woman spat on hospital staff, bit a security guard and tried to bite the corporal, the chief added.
Craig said he is concerned that the officers didn’t follow procedure by handcuffing a “mentally ill person” and that he thinks the officers’ body camera footage tells “a little bit of a different story” than the cellphone footage.
The woman and the officer who hit her are black.
Detroit Medical Center, which operates the hospital, followed “appropriate processes” and has filed a report about the incident with the police department, said a hospital spokeswoman.