A disturbing video of former St. Albans, Vermont police officer Sgt. Jason Lawton, some of it from a police body camera, shows the intoxicated woman, Amy Connelly, being thrown against a wall in a tiny holding cell after she refuses to sit down. When she stands back up and tries to kick Lawton, he responds by punching her in the face.
Connelly is heard repeatedly saying, “Why would you do this?”
This video, which captured the March incident, was not viewed by St. Albans Police Chief Gary Taylor until late May when the Vermont chapter of the American Civil Liberties Union requested the footage.
By June 12, Lawton was placed on administrative leave. By July 1, Lawton was fired.
“With the body camera footage, we’re actually able to see exactly what happened, see an officer upper-cutting a young distraught woman with handcuffs behind her back,” Jay Diaz, a staff attorney with the Vermont ACLU, told AP News.
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Now, Taylor told AP News that he has changed the use-of-force reporting policies: all physical exchanges between a Vermont police officer and suspects must be reviewed by the patrol commanders who will report anything questionable to the chief. Before the altercation, when force was used it was self-reported.
“The minute I saw the video I was disturbed by what I saw and directed that there be an internal, administrative investigation conducted,” Taylor said Thursday in his St. Albans office.
Lawton has refused to back down and has appealed his firing. Several other officers were involved but they were allowed to resign and one is facing an internal review.
Connelly was initially brought in when she was arguing with other patrons at a bar and refused to leave. She has pleaded not guilty to all charges and her lawyers are asking for the charges against her to be dropped.