A police officer in Warren, Michigan was reinstated against her department’s wishes just over a year after she was caught forcibly cutting a woman’s hair weave off, the Macomb Record reported.
Security camera footage shows Officer Bernadette Najor cutting the hair off of 22-year-old Charda Gregory during the November 2013 encounter. Gregory was sitting in a restraint chair, after being shoved into it by Najor and secured by several officers.
Najor was fired a month later, after Deputy Commissioner Louis Galasso reviewed the footage, which does not include sound. The officer’s use of force was not documented in the original incident report.
The officer testified before arbitrator Nora Lynch that she was following police procedure in cutting Gregory’s hair, because the weave was “loosely tied in with loops” and thus not “permanently attached” to her head. Many police departments remove hair extensions from prisoners, to eliminate the possibility of them being used as weapons.
In this case, however, Gregory complained about her treatment, calling Najor “a very horrible person.” Galasso also criticized Najor’s tactics.
“I read the police report and was stunned at the very bottom line … that stated that this person’s hair was cut off,” Glasso told the Huffington Post.
According to WXYZ-TV, the incident ocurred while Gregory was being held on charges of malicious destruction of police property and vandalism. Gregory said at the time that she woke up in a local hotel room, disoriented, and believed that she had been drugged at a party in Detroit, about 16 miles away the night before.
An internal review subsequently accused Najor of conduct unbecoming an officer, failing to foster public respect and cooperation, and unnecessary use of force, among other policy violations. The city also paid Gregory a $75,000 settlement and dropped the charges against her. Najor’s firing was not part of the settlement.
But Lynch ruled that Najor be rehired with back pay and benefits, saying her supervisors had carried out a biased investigation into the incident.
“To view the video without the benefit of an audio component and without carefully weighing the accounts of officers who were present does not reflect the reality of what occurred,” Lynch wrote in a 26-page decision. “The officers, who were interviewed separately, gave consistent accounts, agreeing that the prisoner was combative and resistant and their actions to control her did not involve the use of excessive force.”
The officers’ accounts ran counter to that of Capt. James Matheny, who conducted the department’s investigation. He testified that Gregory was not behaving aggressively at the time of the encounter.
The department said in a statement that it “strongly disagrees with the arbitrator’s decision.”
“The actions taken by the Warren Police Department were appropriate and required,” the statement read. “Despite that, this is a nation of laws, and even where we believe that an arbitrator’s decision is plainly wrong, we will follow it.”
Watch footage of the encounter, as posted online, below.
[h/t The Free Thought Project]