LAFAYETTE (July 2, 2014) – A Lafayette police officer will keep his job despite a recommendation that he be fired after video showed him knocking over a man in a motorized wheelchair.
The Oct. 1, 2013, incident involved Lieutenant Tom Davidson and 25-year-old Nicholas Kincade.
Police were called to the area after receiving reports that Kincade was armed with a gun near a charter school. Police didn’t find a firearm and said Kincade had a pocket knife that he carries for protection.
School officials told officers to inform Kincade that he wasn’t welcome near the school. Police told him he could be charged with trespassing and ordered him to leave.
According to Chief Patrick J. Flannelly, Kincade started preparing his backpack and chair to leave as requested. Kincade moved forward and ran over Davidson’s foot, “at which point Lieutenant Davidson pushed Kincade and the wheelchair, causing it to tip over and Kincade to fall out and onto the street,” according to Flannelly.
The nearly 33-minute dashcam video shows the encounter at about the 13-minute mark.
Kincade was arrested on a count of battery on a law enforcement officer and taken to jail by an ambulance. The charge was later dismissed.
An internal investigation found Davidson in violation of Lafayette Police Department policy, specifically unbecoming conduct and response to resistance. Flannelly came to the same conclusion and recommended Davidson’s termination.
The Lafayette Police Civil Service Commission—a group of five citizens tasked with hiring, discipline and promotion within the department—conducted a hearing and found Davidson guilty of unbecoming conduct in a 5-0 vote. In a 3-2 vote, the commission found Davidson was not in violation of the response to resistance policy.
The Merit Board decided not to fire Davidson. Instead, he was given a 30-day unpaid suspension, demoted and placed on probation for a year.
“In this case, it was determined by the Command Staff that force applied in this incident was outside our training and policy,” Flannelly said in a statement provided to FOX59. “While it may have been a ‘reflexive’ act on the officer’s part to remove the heavy wheelchair from his foot, it was a use of force that should have never occurred in the first place. The officer should have avoided the path of the wheelchair.”
The department released the dashcam video in response to a Freedom of Information Act request.