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Incident No. 1: Detention Deputy Disciplined For Proficiency, Profanity
Detention Deputy Joseph Hickey received a five day suspension without pay after an internal investigation concluded he used profanity and derogatory language toward an inmate. The Sheriff’s Office also concluded that Deputy Hickey failed to properly deal with the belligerent inmate who refused to relocate to a holding cell at the Falkenburg Road Jail.
The incident occurred at approximately 1:45 p.m. on December 17, 2009, after inmate Kenneth Berryhill, 33, returned to the housing unit from a court hearing. Inmate Berryhill, who is not a person with a disability, but instead had been provided a wheelchair by jail personnel for convenience after he complained he was healing from being stabbed in the abdomen and ankle, rolled his wheelchair to the desk where the deputy was stationed. He demanded lunch, telling Deputy Hickey that he had not eaten at the courthouse and Deputy Hickey told the inmate to wait for dinner. Statements from other inmates in the housing unit showed Berryhill began disrupting the housing unit by yelling and cursing, demanding to fill out a complaint against the deputy. Deputy Hickey ordered him to cease being disruptive and to relocate to a holding cell. Berryhill refused repeated commands to do so.
Deputy Hickey told investigators that he then tried to relocate the inmate to the holding cell, but that Berryhill applied the brakes to the wheelchair. Deputy Hickey resorted to pulling the wheelchair backwards, as the inmate continued to yell. One witness told Internal Affairs investigators that he saw Deputy Hickey tip the wheelchair forward sending Berryhill to the floor, while another inmate who also witnessed the incident said Berryhill faked being ejected to the floor and instead caused himself to fall. Berryhill denied he propelled himself out of the wheelchair.
Berryhill said he fell out of the wheelchair when Deputy Hickey raised the rear wheels and then slammed the chair to the ground; however, video of the incident does not support Berryhill’s account. The surveillance video clearly shows Berryhill standing and leaning forward and also supports the fact Deputy Hickey never lifted the wheelchair forward.
Berryhill, who complained his stomach was injured, was evaluated at the jail infirmary and was taken to Tampa General Hospital for evaluation. He was found to have no injuries and he returned to jail four hours later.
Deputy Hickey admitted to investigators that the inmate had gotten under his skin with his shouts and comments, but that he did nothing to cause the inmate to fall or be ejected from the wheelchair. Instead, Deputy Hickey said the inmate intentionally caused himself to fall out of the chair, all the while making comments about the incident being captured on jail surveillance cameras and a forthcoming lawsuit.
Berryhill, who has been arrested 18 times previously in Hillsborough County, and Deputy Hickey, had previous interaction which may have exacerbated this incident. Berryhill once complained on Deputy Hickey, and Deputy Hickey admitted to using derogatory language and profanity toward Berryhill during this incident.
Deputy Hickey was disciplined for failure to follow Sheriff’s Office policies and Department of Detention Services’ policies for handling a disruptive inmate.
Deputy Hickey has been employed with the Sheriff’s Office since March 1, 2004 and has two prior sustained Internal Affairs Investigations. He received a Letter of Reprimand for Inattention to duties on November 20, 2008, and a one day suspension for Horseplay/Distractions on September 28, 2009.
Dep. Hickey Video.wmv
View Video of Incident Below (Requires Windows Media Player):
Incident No. 2: Detention Deputy Suspended For Excessive/Unnecessary Force on an Inmate
Detention Deputy Jonathan Holt has been suspended for using unnecessary/excessive force and for failure to follow Sheriff’s Office training guidelines and policies for the use of force. The incident stemmed from an attempt to control an inmate at the Falkenburg Road Jail who was being escorted from a housing unit after causing a disruption during the night as approximately 70 other inmates attempted to sleep. The inmate did not file a complaint about the incident, but instead jail supervisors who responded to the incident immediately initiated an internal investigation.
The incident occurred on December 17, 2009, approximately 30 minutes after Deputy Michael B. Anderson ordered lights off. Inmate Michael Rosario, now age 19, who had been provided a wheel chair by jail staff for ease of mobility due to a leg injury from a previous motor vehicle crash, became disorderly and refused to quiet or return to his bunk. Rosario, who earlier had been warned against “popping wheelies” in the wheelchair, cursed at Deputy Anderson and challenged the deputy to do his “f------ job” and physically put him back in his bunk. Inmates who witnessed the incident told Internal Affairs investigators that Rosario, ignored Deputy Anderson’s orders and disrupted the housing unit.
Deputy Anderson repeatedly ordered the inmate to relocate to a holding cell; however, the inmate refused and sat motionless in the wheelchair yelling profanities at Deputy Anderson. Deputy Anderson said after the inmate ignored his repeated orders to cease and return to his bed, he called for backup to relocate the inmate out of the housing unit.
Deputy Anderson told investigators he was concerned that the other inmates watching the disturbance caused by Rosario would become incited and possibly involve themselves in the incident. Deputy Holt, who was just outside the housing unit, responded to Deputy Anderson’s call for assistance in order to relocate Rosario and prevent any widespread disturbance among the other inmates.
Deputy Holt entered the housing unit and ordered Rosario to wheel his chair toward the vestibule. When Rosario refused to move, Deputy Holt grabbed the armrest of the wheelchair and pulled the chair toward him. The motion resulted in the wheelchair rolling toward the sliding door of the vestibule. Surveillance video of the incident showed Rosario pushed himself backwards in apparent attempt to avoid striking the door frame. Rosario’s action caused the wheelchair to be propelled backward into Deputy Holt.
Deputy Holt testified Rosario cursed at him and turned his head making him believe that Rosario was going to spit on him. Deputy Holt stated that he reacted to Rosario’s movement by grabbing Rosario’s head and pushing it forward and away from a direction where he could spit on him. Deputy Holt said he continued to push Rosario’s body forward while pushing the wheelchair out of the way. Deputy Holt and Rosario went to the floor. Deputy Holt then moved to roll Rosario onto his stomach, and eventually straddled Rosario to gain control of his arms and hands so that they could be handcuffed. Deputies Anderson and Holt both testified that Rosario resisted Deputy Holt’s effort to control his hands and instead placed his hands under his body. During the attempt to control Rosario’s hands, Deputy Holt delivered a knee strike to Rosario’s right leg.
Rosario was examined at the jail infirmary and a medical evaluation concluded there were no injuries from the incident.
Rosario admitted to Internal Affairs investigators that he verbally taunted the deputies, disobeyed their orders and challenged them to forcibly roll him out of the housing unit. In addition to Rosario, investigators obtained statements from other inmates in the housing unit who observed or claimed to have observed the December 17th incident. While some inmates questioned the level of force used by Deputy Holt, others told investigators that Rosario was defiant and combative and disrupted the pod.
Holt acknowledged that lesser levels of force should have been used; however, and although Rosario’s behavior caused a disruption of the pod, time allowed for verbal dialogue and other options that he failed to exercise. The Sheriff’s Office concluded that while Rosario’s actions were disruptive and posed the potential to create a disturbance, they did not rise to the level where the immediate use of force was necessary to control Rosario. Deputy Holt was disciplined for unnecessary/excessive force and received a 60-day suspension without pay. Deputy Holt will also be required to attend remedial training in the use of force prior to returning to inmate contact in the jails.
Deputy Holt, age 37 has been employed since April 5, 2004, and has no prior Internal Affairs history or complaints.
While it is obvious that our detention deputies have a difficult job in controlling disruptive and sometimes violent inmates, the Sheriff’s Office will continue to hold its deputies accountable to a high standard regarding the use of force.
Dep Holt Video.wmv
View Video of Incident Below (Requires Windows Media Player):