We read stories about this type of thing on a regular basis. The person who is arrested complains that he or she was manhandled or otherwise abused by a police officer or officers, and the response is that the force was necessary in light of the fact that the suspect was “resisting arrest.”
This past May, APD officer Jermaine Hopkins was responding to a call in Austin, and arrested several people for public intoxication. During the course of handcuffing one of the suspects, Vanessa Price began to approach the officer. Officer Hopkins told the woman not to approach, then told her she was being detained, and ordered her to sit on the curb. When Ms. Price called her husband on her cell phone, the officer told her to hang up. When she did not comply, Hopkins grabbed her wrist, and she was put on the ground to be handcuffed and was treated fairly roughly. She was arrested for interfering with public duties, and then for resisting her arrest.
Officer Hopkins was eventually suspended (with pay), and assigned to administrative duties. But he remains suspended, and the reason is apparently not so much that he overreacted to a situation that posed no threat to himself or to his duties, but rather because his account of the situation differs markedly from both eyewitness accounts and the video footage from his dashcam.
From a legal perspective, the case hinges on the claim by the officer that Ms. Price was interfering with his duties as a police officer. This in turn, is dependent upon the alleged “approach” by Price when Hopkins was handcuffing one of those arrested for public intoxication. What the dashcam apparently shows, and what the witnesses report, is that Ms. Price never came closer than about thirty feet from the officer. This completely undermines the officer’s assertion of interference, and apparently differs from his statements in the case and to his superiors.
The internal affairs investigation concluded that Officer Hopkins’ story just doesn’t add up. As for the next step in this case, we’ll have to wait to see what the APD will do. We’re also interested in seeing the dashcam footage, which thus far the department has refused to release.
The Law Office of Matthew Shrum, P.L.L.C.
808 West Ave.
Austin, TX 78701