Updated: APD officer arrested for unjustified use of force

Updated: APD officer arrested for unjustified use of force
(Photo/Missy Schrott)

By Missy Schrott | mschrott@alextimes.com 

Alexandria police officer Jonathan Griffin was arrested and charged with assault and battery on Tuesday for unjustified use of force, according to a news release.

Jonathan Griffin. (Photo/Alexandria Sheriff’s Office)

The use of force incident took place on Jan. 27. Griffin, a white, 32-year-old male, was taking an individual, another white male, into custody for a health evaluation, according to the release. Griffin used weaponless force to bring the handcuffed subject to the ground. As a result, the man sustained multiple injuries to the front of his body.

The Alexandria Police Department placed Griffin on administrative leave on June 3, more than four months after the incident took place. APD began the employment termination process against Griffin on June 26 after an investigation determined that the use of force was unnecessary.

The assault and battery charge is a class one misdemeanor that carries a maximum penalty of one year imprisonment and a fine of $2,500, according to the Office of the Commonwealth’s Attorney. A trial date has not been set yet.

APD officers who use force are required to report the incident immediately, according to the news release. The APD conducts an investigation into each incident to determine whether the use of force was justified. Three supervisors at APD have been disciplined for failing to investigate Griffin’s use of force promptly enough, according to the release.

“Use of force is dehumanizing and should be avoided whenever possible, even when legally justified,” APD Chief Michael Brown said in a statement. “Unjustified use of force is completely unacceptable, and we will continue to hold officers accountable in the rare cases when violations of this policy occur.”

Following his arrest, Griffin was booked at the William G. Truesdale Adult Detention Center and released pending arraignment on Aug. 4, according to the release. This is standard for most misdemeanors during the coronavirus pandemic to reduce the risk of exposure at the jail.

APD officers have used force against 37 of the more than 5,500 subjects taken into custody in 2019 and 2020, according to the release. Firearms were used by officers in one of the 37 cases. Fifty percent of those taken into custody were black, and 51 percent of subjects of force were black, according to the release.

All APD officers receive 116 hours in appropriate use of force training. About 60 percent of Alexandria police officers are certified in crisis intervention, which involves verbal de-escalation and listening skills designed to avoid the use of force, according to the release.

On June 9, city council adopted a resolution pledging to establish a community police review board to oversee the APD. The resolution was proposed by Councilor Mo Seifeldein in response to a national outcry for police reform that followed the killing of George Floyd, a black man who was killed by a white police officer in Minneapolis on May 25.

Use of force incidents will fall under the proposed community police review board, Seifeldein said.

Regarding Griffin’s case, Seifeldein questioned why it took so long for Griffin to be investigated, charged and dismissed from APD.

“I am not familiar with the full timeline and all of the details of the case, but there are gaps in the narrative that must be filled,” Seifeldein said in an email. “Most pressingly, why weren’t appropriate actions taken ‘promptly’ and is this delay unique to this case?”

The city can’t provide additional specifics about the case at this stage of the termination proceedings and criminal review, according to city spokesperson Craig Fifer.