ERIE, Pa. (AP) — A Pennsylvania police officer seen on video kicking a protester sitting on the street during civil unrest in Erie last month will be suspended without pay for three days and will then be on desk duty until he completes sensitivity training, officials said.
The Erie Times-News reports that Mayor Joe Schember, who did not identify the officer, said Monday that similar training will be required for the entire police department. He called the officer a veteran of the force “who has no prior complaints and has never exhibited any kind of behavior that warranted disciplinary action.”
Schember and Erie Police Chief Dan Spizarny both said the investigation had concluded that the officer followed approved police procedures and his use of force was technically justified under current policies. But the mayor called the officer’s actions “inappropriate” and said it warranted discipline.
The altercation happened shortly before midnight on May 30 during nationwide demonstrations following the killing of George Floyd. Police said several hundred people descended on City Hall at night and began spray painting the building, breaking windows, pulling parking meters out of the ground, vandalizing shops and restaurants and throwing objects at police. Officers used tear gas and tried to disperse the crowd, police said.
In the video, the officer is seen approaching a protester seated in the middle of the street and kicking her over.
“My immediate thought upon viewing the video was disgust,” Spizarny said, adding that the officer approached him the following morning and “expressed his remorse for how this appeared.”
“It is clear the officer lifted his leg and used the bottom of his foot to push on the left arm of the sitting protester,” Spizarny said. “It was not a striking kick.”
Attorney Timothy McNair, who represents the protester, said his client was glad that some action was taken against the officer but believed the suspension should have been longer. He denied the allegation that she was trying to prevent officers from reaching more destructive individuals.
“She simply, in an act of civil disobedience, was trying to be a pain in the neck,” McNair said. “She was not trying to protect anybody who was firing shots or breaking windows.”