An Alabama police officer accused of using excessive force to subdue an unarmed elderly man will call a police training expert witness to defend himself in a federal civil rights trial. According to court documents submitted this week, the police officer’s defense team will counter prosecution experts with a certified police trainer who will offer expert testimony supporting the officer’s actions given the circumstances.
Alabama Officer Charged with Excessive Use of Force
In February of this year, 57-year-old Sureshbhai Patel was taking a walk around the neighborhood where his son lived when he was approached by officers responding to a call about a potentially suspicious person. Patel, who is an Indian national visiting his son’s family, does not speak or understand English and had a miscommunication with the officers who approached him. Although accounts differ about the interaction, footage from the police cruiser dashboard camera shows Madison Police Officer Eric Parker slamming Mr. Patel to the ground and violently subduing him before placing him in custody.
According to the Patel family, Mr. Patel tried to explain to the officers that he did not speak English, and provide them with his son’s address so they would be able to identify him. When Officer Parker attempted to frisk Mr. Patel, he was unsure of what was happening and attempted to walk away. Officer Parker then forcibly placed Mr. Patel on the ground, and the resulting injuries left the 57-year-old partially paralyzed and confined to a hospital bed.
Officer Parker was dismissed from the Madison PD, and Alabama Governor Robert Bentley issued an apology to the Patels and the government of India for injuries suffered as a result of the police encounter. Following the incident, the United States Department of Justice filed federal civil rights charges against Parker for his aggressive takedown of Mr. Patel, and prosecutors announced plans to call a police expert witness to explain that Parker’s actions were excessive and unwarranted.
Prosecution of Former Alabama Police Officer will Feature Use of Force Expert Witness
Documents filed by prosecutors have identified Parker’s former boss, Madison PD Police Chief Larry Muncey, as an expert witness in police training and use of force in the upcoming federal civil rights trial. According to the prosecution, Muncey will review the video recordings of the incident involving Parker and Mr. Patel and explain that the officer exhibited use of excessive and unnecessary force in subduing the elderly man. Prosecutors also informed the court that, Muncey “will also opine, based on his training and expertise, that (Parker’s) actions were inconsistent with department policy and that (his) use of force in this instance did not adhere to prevailing police standards and training.”
Muncey’s expert testimony on police training and use of force will help jurors understand the standards of the Madison PD in order to determine whether or not Parker deviated from his duty and violated Mr. Patel’s civil rights. Parker has pleaded not guilty to the civil rights charges, and announced his intention to call a contradictory expert witness who is a certified trainer in police use of force tactics to help explain the officer’s actions.
Former Cop Charged with Excessive Force to Call Defense Expert Witness
In response to the allegations that he was not justified in using force against the 57-year-old Mr. Patel, former officer Eric Parker has submitted his own use of force expert witness. Court documents submitted during pre-trial preparation indicate that Parker’s defense team will call Johnny Lee Smith of Triad Martial Arts Inc. to testify that Parker did not show intent to injure and was engaged in a standard police tactic given the circumstances of his interaction with Mr. Patel. Triad Martial Arts institute is a Certified Specialized Instructor by the Alabama Peace Officers’ Standards and Training Commission, and Smith himself has conducted training courses on police use of force.
According to documents submitted by Parker’s defense team, “Mr. Smith’s testimony is expected to opine that Officer Parker’s stop of Mr. Patel was justified; that reasonable suspicion existed for Officer Parker to conduct a ‘Terry Frisk’ of Mr. Patel; that Officer Parker was justified in using force against Mr. Patel; the amount of force used by Officer Parker was justified under the totality of the circumstances and complied with current law and department policy; and that it does not appear that Officer Parker intentionally tried to hurt Mr. Patel.”
Attorneys for Mr. Patel have denounced the use of Smith as an expert, saying they expect his testimony to be dismissed by the federal judge before trial. Parker has appealed his dismissal from the Madison PD, and will defend his actions during his federal civil rights trial that is scheduled to begin in September of this year.