Exclusive: Clearwater police officer suspended for use of force

By Josh Rojas, Reporter
Last Updated: Thursday, March 03, 2016, 6:36 AM

Clearwater police officer Jeff Williams was suspended for one day without pay for violating a use of force policy when he used his foot to push a handcuffed man whom he yanked to the ground out of a cruiser, according to an internal affairs report.

"I think he should be thrown off the job," said the victim, Kevin McCue, 56. "For what this officer did to me, I just want to get it out there to have justice."

The internal affairs case was recently closed and officer Williams served his one day suspension last Friday. The incident happened at the Clearwater Beach Marina on Sept. 26 and was caught on surveillance video. Police responded to a disturbance call after McCue got into an argument with a woman he was dating, according to the complaint.

McCue, who was handcuffed and placed into the back of a police cruiser, was arrested for disorderly conduct. The Largo man has a defibrillator, complained of chest pains and paramedic were summoned to the scene, according to the report. When the paramedics arrived, police said McCue refused to get out of cruiser.

That's when officer Williams said he "violently ripped" McCue out of the cruiser and onto the ground. Surveillance video shows that struggle lasted nearly 20 seconds. Then Williams can be seen on video using the sole of his right foot to push against McCue's stomach as the man's lying handcuffed on his side, according to the report.

"He can call it whatever he wants," said McCue's attorney, John Trevena. "He kicks him with his foot, while he’s handcuffed on the ground. Totally inappropriate."

In his original report, officer Williams makes no mention of using his foot on McCue. In a second report, Williams wrote that he used his foot on McCue to keep him from getting up and because he was worried the man would spit blood on him.

"I don’t buy the blood spat argument one bit," Trevena said. "It just shows the officer was trying to cover up his conduct by not including it on the report. When an officer uses force, anytime during an arrest, he’s supposed to document that thoroughly."

The Office of Professional Standards asked Williams if he intentionally left out the foot information in his original report. Williams said, "no" and that he initially put it in the report but took it out because at the time he thought it "was a minor incident."  

McCue said he suffers from bipolar disorder, was having an episode that night and doesn't remember much. According to the report, McCue was Baker Acted and the State Attorney's Office dropped the disorderly conduct charge against him. Police said McCue threatened to kill himself and the officers that night, had been drinking heavily and was resisting arrest.

"I was having a mental episode," McCue said. "I really don’t trust the police department anymore."

Clearwater Police Chief Daniel Slaughter declined Bay News 9's request for an interview. Trevena said he's going to forward the compliant to the Mayor's office for civil damages.