WATCH: Fired Prison Shift Commander Failed to Report Beating of Handcuffed Inmate

Sep 23, 2015

The State Personnel Board on Tuesday upheld the firing of a prison shift commander who failed to report an incident in which a kneeling, handcuffed inmate was struck in the head several times by another officer.

The beating was captured on video.

The officer who struck the inmate, Sgt. Juanice Cole, was also fired.

Lt. Edmond Cooper, who had worked for the Department of Corrections for about 13 years, admitted he was wrong not to report the incident but claimed that termination was too harsh, his lawyer told the Personnel Board.

“We’re not saying that Mr. Cooper shouldn’t be punished,” lawyer Adam Morel said.

Morel said suspension or demotion would have been more appropriate.

The incident happened Dec. 11, 2014, in the shift commander’s office at Elmore Correctional Facility.

DOC spokesman Bob Horton said the department launched an investigation as soon as it learned of the situation and placed the officers on administrative leave.

Horton said Cole was fired for inappropriate use of force and other violations of DOC rules. Cooper was fired for failing to report what happened.

A third prison officer who saw the incident resigned to avoid dismissal, according to the DOC.

The DOC said the inmate was not injured. The DOC would not release his name for security reasons, Horton said.

The video shows Cole escorting an inmate, hands cuffed behind him, into the shift commander’s office.

After the inmate kneels, Cole strikes him in the face or head three times.

Cooper, working at a desktop computer a few feet away, does not visibly react. There is no audio.

Cole walks briefly out of view, then returns and speaks to Cooper, still at his desk. She again approaches the inmate, who is lying on his side, and appears to hit him again.

Cooper rises from his desk and walks out of the office while another employee, who also watched the incident, coaxes the inmate back to his feet.

Cooper returns to his desk, and the video ends.

Cooper sent the inmate to the prison’s health care unit for evaluation.

But he did not complete an incident report, notify the on-call supervisor or call the warden, according to a hearing officer’s recommendation on Cooper’s appeal to of his firing to the State Personnel Board.

Administrative Law Judge James Jerry Wood held a hearing on Cooper’s appeal on June 2.

On June 23, Wood issued a recommended order to the Personnel Board, finding that Interim DOC Commissioner Billy Sharp acted within his authority in firing Cooper. Sharp preceded Commissioner Jeff Dunn.

Cooper and Elmore Warden Leeposey Daniels were the only two witnesses to testify at the June hearing.

Daniels initially recommended a three-day suspension for Cooper.

DOC’s central office rejected the suspension and called for a harsher punishment.

Daniels changed his recommendation to termination.

At the June hearing, Daniels testified that Cooper was one of his best officers and wanted to have him back.

In an email today, DOC spokesman Horton said DOC expects “the highest degree of professionalism, integrity and accountability” from every officer.

“The officers treatment of the inmate, and the failure to report the incident, is not in keeping with DOC standards of conduct,” Horton said. “The department took appropriate action by terminating the former officers as a result of its own investigation.”

On Tuesday, the Personnel Board deliberated behind closed doors after hearing from Cooper’s lawyer, Morel, and DOC attorney Al Butler.

The board reopened the meeting and voted to uphold the termination.


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Filming Cops
Filming Cops 5618 posts

Filming Cops was started in 2010 as a conglomerative blogging service documenting police abuse. The aim isn’t to demonize the natural concept of security provision as such, but to highlight specific cases of State-monopolized police brutality that are otherwise ignored by traditional media outlets.

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