SARASOTA, FLORIDA – The City of Sarasota’s Civil Service Board has overturned the firing of a Sarasota Police officer from a 2009 incident. Officer Christopher Childers was fired after being found to have used excessive force during an arrest in 2009. Childers appealed that decision, and now, he will be back on the job by October.
According to one of the Civil Service Board members, after hearing two days of testimony and cross examinations, it became clear that Christopher Childers did not use excessive force. But even now that Childers will be reinstated, the changes made in the way the city handles incidents within the police department remain.
It’s surveillance footage that Civil Service Board member Ken Shelin says is the most damaging. But in this case, looks are deceiving. “When you talk to the people who were there and up close and personal, with respect to what actually happened, you could understand that he did not use excessive force.”
In the video, it appears that Officer Childers kicks the suspect, Juan Perez, while handcuffed, after arresting him for disorderly intoxication. But Shelin says medical records proved Perez wasn’t injured, and other witness testimony proved the force Officer Childers did use was reasonable given Perez’s level of intoxication and behavior, and it’s because of this 2009 incident that the city formed the first Ad-hoc Police Advisory Panel, which Adam Tebrugge sat on as Vice Chair. “Our job was not to investigate the circumstances surrounding the incident with officer Childers, our job was to move forward and recommend improvements the department could make to build trusting relationships with the citizens of Sarasota,” says Tebrugge.
Tebrugge says many of the recommendations made by his original panel still remain in place as policy, and now, nearly three years later, the city has two panels in place, made up of citizens, as well as city officials, who oversee operations and disciplinary actions by the Sarasota Police Department, and now, looking forward, Tebrugge says he hopes the relationship between the police department and citizen’s continues to improve. “We are now getting ready to hire a new chief for the Sarasota Police Department. It would be a great opportunity for the city commission and the new chief to review the recommendations of the police advisory panel, and going forward, make sure the new chief has all the tools necessary to be successful.”
Also, as a result of this incident, and the way it was originally handled by the Sarasota Police Department, then Police Chief Peter Abbott resigned, and the city was sued twice– by Perez for police misconduct, and for a Sunshine Law violation.
Childers will receive back pay for the last three years.