UTAH – A seasoned police officer has been terminated for repeatedly punching a woman in the head with a closed fist at a traffic stop.
Utah Highway Patrol Sergeant Andrew Davenport pulled over 60-year-old Darla Wright after a police chase through Ogden in August, 2010.
Davenport, 37, claimed he was using ‘distraction blows’ because the woman refused to get out of her vehicle, and had disputed allegations he used excessive force.
The Salt Lake Tribune reports Davenport was dismissed on January 19, 2011 after a five-month internal investigation. He appealed the decision to the board and was put on paid administrative leave.
A Utah Career Service Review Board report was released to the newspaper after a state open-records request.
According to the report, the board on October 26 upheld the firing of Davenport, who now works as an Ogden patrol officer.
The board found Davenport ‘violated numerous department polices regarding use of force, ethical conduct, use of mobile recording equipment and assault’, according to the Tribune.
The report said that Davenport failed basic skills on how and when to use force, and ‘could not be trusted to use it properly in the future.’
Officers claimed in an incident report that Wright was driving erratically and tried to avoid being pulled over.
During the chase, they finally managed to spin her vehicle to a halt by hitting the back of her car and sandwiched it between two police cars.
Dash camera footage shows Davenport running up to Wright’s vehicle, shouting, ‘Get out of the car!’ and asking her to roll down the window; but she refused to let go of the steering wheel.
‘The suspect was still trying to escape, she had the accelerator floored and engine revving in an attempt to push our vehicles out of the way,’ Davenport wrote in the incident report.
It was then that the video shows him smashing the driver’s side window and beginning to punch the woman, striking her repeatedly in the head and face.
Another officer is seen pointing a Taser at the startled woman from the back window.
The shocking images were captured by the camera on the police vehicle dashboard were released by the Utah Department of Public Safety in January, 2011.
‘She refused to comply with commands to give us her hands’, Sergeant Davenport wrote in his police report.
‘Due to my close proximity to the suspect and my experience with Taser failure at such close distances, I delivered three close hand strikes to her head in an attempt to gain compliance with our commands.
‘I did this to distract and stun her and to stop her from trying to drive off and strike our vehicles or possibly run us over. The strikes worked and we were able to grab her hands,’ he added.
According to the board report, Davenport shut off his microphone during the incident, and did not give directions to troopers about how to approach the vehicle.
One trooper is seen jumping over the hood of Wright’s car with a handgun, pointing it at her with Davenport in the line of fire.
Another trooper pointed a Taser in Wright’s direction through the back passenger side window.
The board said that closed-fist punches were not encouraged in the force, although strikes with a forearm or open hand are viewed as acceptable in force is needed to get someone out of a vehicle.
Wright was taken into custody on suspicion of DUI, reckless driving, eluding police, resisting arrest and assault on a police officer. She was taken to hospital and required stitches.
The charges against her were dismissed in January, 2011; she reached a reported $25,000 out-of-court settlement with the state.
Davenport was employed by the Utah Highway Patrol as a trooper for ‘several years’ and was promoted to sergeant in 2007, according to the Tribune.
A spokesman for the board said the Utah Peace Officer Standards and Training Council was looking into Davenport’s conduct for possible decertification; however, no criminal charges have been filed.