Excessive force investigation started after video shows Madison police arrest teen

Excessive force investigation started after video shows Madison police arrest teen
Brandi Grayson

The Madison Police Department is launching an internal investigation after receiving reports that officers used excessive force while responding to a call about a 17-year-old boy.

Police were called at 11:05 a.m. Wednesday for reports of a teen using threatening behavior consistent with someone in a mental health crisis, according to a police report written by MPD public information officer Joel Despain.

When officers arrived, they were aware that the boy was under a mental health commitment and planned to take the boy into protective custody and transport him to a local hospital for further evaluation, Despain wrote.

According to the police report, the teen refused to comply with officer requests and resisted handcuffing. Police said there was a physical struggle and one officer struck the boy several times in an attempt to restrain him. The report said the boy also spit on the officers, which forced officers to use a mesh spit hood.

After officers gained control, they transported the boy to a local hospital where he was medically cleared and subsequently conveyed to Winnebago Mental Health Institute as part of the terms of his commitment. Police said the boy did not report any injuries and showed no visible injuries after the encounter. One of the officers suffered thumb and rotator cuff injuries, according to the report.

Police said there is probable cause to charge the boy with multiple criminal offenses and a decision to pursue the charges will be deferred until he receives further mental health evaluation and assessment.

Brandi Grayson, a friend of the boy’s mother, shared three videos of the incident on Facebook with the mother’s permission. The videos show snippets of the interaction with police, but do not show the incident in its entirety. Grayson described the videos as violence against a black child and said police were not aware that they were being recorded during the exchange.

Grayson said police were contacted by staff at West High School who reported the boy for using foul language and being disrespectful. She said the teen then left the school and went home, which is where police responded to.

Madison Metropolitan School District spokesperson Rachel Strauch-Nelson said that part of Grayson’s account of the call is inaccurate. Staff at West High School did not request any police involvement in any situation and there were no calls to West High School on Wednesday, Strauch-Nelson said.

The MPD internal investigation into the interaction is ongoing, according to the report. The incident was turned over to the Professional Standards and Internal Affairs Unit.

#Madison police are launching an internal investigation after seeing this video surface online. The boy involved is known to have mental health issues and agreed to be taken to the hospital when this happened. pic.twitter.com/cPfN8XFtrl

— Jamie Perez (@JamiePerezTV) June 6, 2019

“MPD is aware that a video reflecting part of the incident is circulating on social media, and is releasing this information in an attempt to provide context and keep our community informed,” Despain wrote in the news release.

The office of Madison Mayor Satya Rhodes-Conway released a joint statement with Common Council leadership Wednesday night in response to the videos and the investigation. In it, the leaders describe the videos as disturbing and call for full transparency in the investigation process.

“We expect a fair and thorough investigation of this very disturbing video,” the statement said. “We are committed to a higher level of transparency and taking a proactive, problem-solving approach to the difficult issue of handling mental health crises.”

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