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Tampa police officer terminated over video of woman being dragged to jail

NBC News 12/29/2022 Doha Madani
© Provided by NBC News

The Tampa Police Department announced it had terminated an officer Tuesday following an internal investigation into a video where he was seen dragging a woman into jail.

Gregory Damon violated multiple department policies last month during an incident where a woman refused to exit a patrol vehicle to be booked into jail, the department announced in a press release. A review of body-worn camera and surveillance footage showed that Damon grabbed her by her arm to the jail's front door after she yelled at him, "I want you to drag me," in addition to other obscenities.

Damon also responded to the woman with "rude and derogatory comments," the department said.

Interim Tampa Police Chief Lee Bercaw said Damon's actions were "unacceptable and are not tolerated at this department."

"Professionalism is not only expected, it is demanded, in every encounter our officers have with the public, regardless of the arrestee being uncooperative or unpleasant in return," Bercaw said. "As law enforcement officers, we are held to a higher standard."

Damon was unable to speak with NBC News when reached by phone Thursday. The Tampa Police Benevolent Association said in a statement it was aware of the allegations against Damon but was not representing him in the matter.

"We do however support the men and women of the Tampa Police Department who serve our citizens daily with the highest levels of professionalism and integrity," the organization said.

The incident occurred on Nov. 17, after officers were called to Tampa Family Health Center for a reported individual sleeping outside the property and refusing to leave, police said. The woman, who had a prior incident at the facility in October, was arrested for trespassing.

Supervisors at the Hillsborough County Sheriff’s Office, the agency which manages the jail, referred Damon's actions to Tampa Police's standards bureau. It was determined that he had violated multiple protocols, including policies regarding searching, transporting, and booking of prisoners, reporting response to resistance, and treatment of person in custody.

Tampa Police Department had revised its protocols in 2013 following a similar incident with uncooperative prisoners.

"Detention deputies must assist an officer with lifting the individual from the transport vehicle and securing them in a restraining chair to be rolled into the intake area," the department said in its press release.

Tampa Mayor Jane Castor was chief of the department when the policy went into place. A request for comment to the mayor's office on the termination was not immediately returned Thursday.

Damon's termination comes after two other incidents of police misconduct at the Tampa Police Department in recent weeks.

Former chief Mary O’Connor was asked to resign earlier this month after she and her husband were stopped in November while driving a golf cart without a license plate. During the stop, O'Connor flashed her badge at a Pinellas County sheriff’s deputy and asked if he would let them go.

The incident was recorded on the deputy's body camera and O'Connor was placed on administrative leave.

"It is unacceptable for any public employee, and especially the city's top law enforcement leader, to ask for special treatment because of their position," Castor said following the resignation. "Public trust in Tampa's police department is paramount to our success as a city and community."

An officer was placed on leave on Dec. 16 following a crash where he was arrested by sheriff's deputies on suspicion of driving under the influence. The outcome of the investigation in that case is still pending.

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