A police officer who appeared to choke a skateboarder in a video posted online has been cleared of any wrongdoing by the Hot Springs Police Department Internal Affairs Board.
Police Chief Bobby Southard told The Sentinel-Record of Hot Springs it was a "minimal force issue." Southard said the officer didn't resort to anything above hand control techniques and handcuffing.
Officer Joey Williams stopped the skateboarders June 21 on a downtown city sidewalk. Skateboarding is banned in the area. The video shows Williams apparently choking one of the skateboarders after forcing him to the ground, then later chasing and wrestling two others while holding them in a headlock.
Another video later surfaced from a downtown merchant's surveillance cameras, showing the officer sprinting after the last in line of skateboarders rolling down the sidewalk single-file. That video is silent, not offering a chance to hear what the young people observing a national skateboarding celebration may have said to start Williams after them.
The Internal Affairs Board sent a letter to Southard, released Monday.
The board found the use of force was within the police department's policy on non-deadly force and recommended no changes to the policy.
Southard said the law requires that a situation like this be viewed -- first and foremost -- from the police officer's perspective. He said the video showed people coming up behind Williams like a mob after he captured one person.
Southard said Williams, who had been put on administrative leave, will return to bike patrol downtown Thursday.
Six skateboarders have court dates pending -- two adults and four juveniles.
Release from Hot Springs Police Department:
The Hot Springs Police Department Internal Affairs Board conducted an investigation into the incident occurring June 21, involving Officer Williams and skateboarders. The Board concluded that Officer Williams did not use excessive force under the circumstances. He will receive documented counseling regarding leaving a handcuffed suspect while he attempted to apprehend another suspect. Officer Williams was released from administrative leave effective July 2. The related cases are still pending in local courts and would be inappropriate to comment further at this time.
Copyright 2007 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)