ACLU Lawsuits Accuse Metro Police of Excessive Force on Teens

By Mark Segraves
|  Wednesday, May 8, 2013  |  Updated 9:14 PM EDT
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Two lawsuits filed by the ACLU Wednesday accuse Metro Transit Police officers of using excessive force with teenagers, News4's Mark Segraves reports.

Mark Segraves

Two lawsuits filed by the ACLU Wednesday accuse Metro Transit Police officers of using excessive force with teenagers, News4's Mark Segraves reports.

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Separate lawsuits filed Wednesday accuse three Metro Transit Police officers of excessive force on two 14-year-olds.

In each case the teens required medical treatment, and lawyers for the teens say the incidents are not isolated.

The police report for one of the incidents tells a different story from what the lawsuit alleges, but both sides agree a Metro police officer did strike the girl more than once.

Metro police arrested Stacy Winslow’s daughter for violating curfew, and Metro acknowledges the officer had to use force to subdue her but not with a closed fist as the lawsuit says and only after the girl became combative and kicked and bit the officer.

The girl admitted biting the officer, but her mother said that doesn’t justify what the officer did. She said her daughter suffered a busted lip, cuts under her right eye and scratches on her neck.

“She was handled by a man who was 50 years old, pretty stocky in build,” Winslow said. “He did a lot of trauma to her. I just want justice to be served.”

In the other incident, a 14-year-old boy going home from school got in a fight with another boy. Police broke up the fight, but the boy says that when he tried to leave, police grabbed him.

The lawsuit claims police slammed him against a bus shelter, put him in a choke hold and pepper-sprayed him

“I understand officers have a hard job, but that doesn’t excuse excessive force with children,” said the boy’s father, Omar Espy.

In both cases the teens were taken to the hospital and then to the juvenile detention center. The boy spent three nights there before he was released.

He said he’s reluctant to take Metro anymore.

“I try to avoid transit officers … and I look at them as jerks,” he said.

Lawyers for the ACLU point to these and other cases, including the 2011 incident involving a man in a wheelchair, as examples of Metro police going too far.

“In all these cases there was a serious over reaction by the transit police officers,” said Art Spitzer, of ACLU.

Metro issued the following statement:

“We have not been served with the lawsuits and have not had an opportunity to review these cases. We take the allegations seriously and will be reviewing the matter internally.”

In both of these cases, the teens were initially arrested and charged with crimes, but those charges were dropped.

The lawsuit does not ask for a specific amount of money.

The parents and the lawyers say they want Metro to do a better job of training its officers.

Follow Mark Segraves on Twitter at @SegravesNBC4

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