TAMPA — The Tampa Police Department fired one of its officers Tuesday after he was recorded dragging a handcuffed woman across the ground toward a Hillsborough County jail booking room.
An investigation found that Officer Gregory Damon violated several department policies during the Nov. 17 incident.
It happened after he and other officers were called early that morning to the Tampa Family Health Centers at 4620 N 22nd St. in the Belmont Heights area. People at the medical office reported that a woman was sleeping outside the building and refusing their requests to leave the property.
The same woman had previously been told to stay away from the property, police said. She was arrested on a trespassing charge.
When Damon arrived with her at the Orient Road Jail, the woman refused to step out of the back of his patrol SUV, police said.
Body-worn camera video that police released Tuesday captured his interaction with the woman.
“I’m going to drag you out of this car,” he told her.
“I want you to drag me,” she said.
The video shows the officer taking her by the arm, pulling her out of the vehicle, then moving her across a long concrete floor towards a sign reading “search your arrestee” over the doorway to the central booking room. The woman speaks defiantly, berating the officer throughout.
If he drags her, the officer stops and tells the woman to stand up. She remains on the ground.
Damon continued to drag her towards the doorway. He pressed a call button, summoning two Hillsborough County jail deputies to come outside to help bring the woman into the room.
Tampa police did not name the woman in a news release about the incident. But jail booking records indicate that she is 46 years old. Her listed address is a Tampa facility that provides services to homeless people. She was booked in jail at 10:19 am that day on a trespassing charge. Booking notes indicate that she was released a few days later to a mental health facility. The criminal case against her continues to be prosecuted.
Supervisors at the jail, which is run by the Hillsborough County Sheriff’s Office, reported the incident to the Tampa Police Department. An investigation by the Professional Standards Bureau began the next day. Damon was relieved of his duties while the probe was ongoing.
The department’s policy on dealing with uncooperative detainees at the jail states that officers should request assistance from the jail booking staff. Jail deputies can help the officer lift the person into a restraint chair to be wheeled into the jail.
Police said they tweaked their policy after a similar incident in 2013, adding language that it is inappropriate to drag a person who is being uncooperative.
In a news release, police noted that the woman used vulgar and obscene language towards the officer, but that Damon also made rude and derogatory comments towards her. His policy violations included rules addressing courtesy to the public.
Investigators reviewed the officer’s body camera footage and surveillance video from the jail and interviewed Damon, finding no clear justification for the policy violations.
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The investigation concluded Tuesday with a decision to fire Damon. He had worked as a patrol officer since 2016.