DC Metro: Transit Police Chief to Investigate Use of Force

The chief of the Metro Transit Police Department initiated a formal investigation Monday into the actions of two officers who appear, in a video posted to the Internet, to have tackled a wheelchair-bound man outside a D.C. rail station, sending the victim to the hospital with a head wound.

Metro spokeswoman Angela Gates said Chief Michael Taborn "saw the video and had some concerns."

"We want to make sure our customers are treated appropriately," Ms. Gates said. "Metro will look into this to make sure our officers did follow proper procedure."

The two unnamed officers will remain on the job with pay.

Metro spokesman Steven Taubenkibel said the officers were on a routine patrol near the U Street/African-Amer Civil War Memorial/Cardozo station around 3 p.m. Thursday when they saw the man drinking in his motorized red scooter.

The officers asked the man to leave but he refused, Mr. Taubenkibel said, so the officers attempted to issue him a citation.

A cellphone video taken by a bystander begins at the point where the officers approached the man, quickly cuffing him before he rises from his scooter with the officers gripping his arms. A struggle that ensues leaves the man facedown on the pavement in a pool of blood.

"The patron resisted arrest, which resulted in him falling out of his wheelchair," Mr. Taubenkibel said. But comments made on YouTube, the website where the video was posted, show a large number of viewers say the force used by the officers was excessive.

Curtis Decker, executive director of the National Disability Rights Network, said that from what he can see from the video, regardless of whether the man was violating an order or not, "If, in fact, they pulled him out of the wheelchair, they are risking serious injury."

He said a disabled person could be a criminal, but that there have been problems in the past "with a variety of police departments around the country not really understanding how to work with people with a whole range of disabilities."

The man was arrested for assault on police officers and drinking in public. WTOP radio reported Monday that Metro sources said the man had a blood-alcohol level of 0.3, but Metro officials said they could not confirm the report.

The arrest isn't the first time Metro Transit Police has been accused of overreacting in well-publicized incidents.

In 2000, a 12-year-old girl was handcuffed by a police officer for eating a french fry on a train platform. In 2004, a scientist for the Environmental Protection Agency was handcuffed, frisked and held for three hours after an officer spotted her eating a candy bar at the Metro Center station.

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