Did a Savannah-Chatham Metro officer go too far?

By Christy Hutchings - bio | email

SAVANNAH, GA (WTOC) - Police break up a fight and it was all caught on tape, but did they handle it the right way?

The video has gone viral. In the past 24 hours more than 10,000 people have viewed video. Many are posting comments, outraged over what they saw.

The video shows a Savannah-Chatham Metro Police officer breaking up a fight happening at the intersection of Broughton and Abercorn streets early Sunday morning. The officer uses pepper spray, and hits both a male and a female with a baton, but it's when the officer grabbed the woman by the back of her pants and slamming her into the ground that really has people upset.

Joshua James says he shot this video and couldn't believe what he was seeing. "I was like man is this happening because I never saw nothing like that before, only saw that happen on TV. I've never seen anybody, a police officer beat anybody before so when I saw that I was just stunned, just shocked," said James.

James says he had no idea when he posted this video on You Tube it would get the attention it's getting.

While many are outraged, others say it's way too early to tell if the officer used excessive force or not and that a video can be deceiving.

"I caution anyone that watches this video not judge the officer or the officer's actions," said Harlan Proveaux, manager of the Georgia Public Safety Training Facility in Garden City.  Proveaux sees videos like this all the time, and he will tell you the video doesn't tell the whole story. "You can't look at the video and tell what the officer was faced with," said Proveaux.

Proveaux says the video doesn't alarm him. He says it shows an officer walking into a volatile situation. "He's trying to gain control. As I'm looking at this video this is a very dangerous situation for the officer. First I only see one to two officers in this crowd and you have a big crowd gathering here. The more the officers let this go on, the more the crowd is going to get involved. It's more dangerous," said Proveaux.

As the officer tries to get one suspect in custody he's approached by the female who pushes him. "You going up to an officer while he's trying to make an arrest, that's very dangerous. That's when most of us are killed." Proveaux says automatically the officer's guard is up.

As for the officer grabbing the female and throwing her to the ground, Proveaux says it's a maneuver officers are taught at the police academy.  It's called a sweep where the officer kicks the suspect's legs out from under them to force them to the ground and gain control of the situation.

"We won't know the real story until the investigation has been complete and we hear the officer's perspective on how he saw this incident from his eyes and what he was faced with," said Proveaux.

An internal affairs investigation is underway, and until it's complete the officer has been placed on administrative leave.

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