Citizens Police Review Board says officer used excessive force

Wednesday, November 10, 2010 | 11:50 p.m. CST; updated 8:26 a.m. CST, Thursday, November 11, 2010

This story has been modified to include a description of the events at Nephew's and to clarify that Derek Billups was handcuffed during the police response.

COLUMBIA — A Columbia police officer used excessive force and acted with misconduct in a December 2009 incident, the Citizens Police Review Board decided at its meeting Wednesday night.

This is the first time the board has sided against police with regards to a citizen's complaint of excessive force.

Derek Billups, who was a bartender at Nephew’s Night Life, claimed that Columbia Police Officer Nathan Turner unnecessarily threw him to the ground during an incident at the nightclub, formerly located at 1213 Business Loop 70 E., on Dec. 13, 2009.

After an internal investigation, the Police Department determined that there was insufficient evidence to determine misconduct, so Billups appealed the decision to the review board.

The review board continued testimony hearings from its Oct. 27 meeting before it determined its suggestion.

Turner responded to a 911 call from the owner of Nephew's, who reported that he and Billups had been arguing. When Turner reached the nightclub he approached Billups from behind, while fellow officer Sara Mosley approached from the side. Turner made contact with Billups, grabbing him by the arm and spinning him into the side of a van, before both men ended up on the ground. Billups was handcuffed but not arrested.

 There were disagreements between board members at Wednesday's meeting about several aspects of the complaint, and an original motion proposed by board member Susan Smith that suggested Turner did not act with misconduct was voted down by five board members.

After that motion was denied, board member Betty Wilson proposed a motion to claim that, unlike the original decision made by the Police Department, there was enough evidence to suggest misconduct. This motion passed with six approving votes.

Billups and his attorney Dan Viets said they were pleased with the outcome of the vote and the decision made by the board.

“The golden rule should be applied in these situations," Viets said. “Police wouldn't want themselves or family members to be treated this way."

Billups, who was previously a police officer in St. Louis, said he felt the whole situation could have been avoided with some simple investigation.

“I’ve been in that situation, I have dealt with disturbances," Billups said. "There is no need to put the subject in handcuffs when you don’t know all the facts.”

Billups also emphasized that Turner should not have turned off his audio recording device, something Billups claimed helps an officer keep a clean image and can clear up confusion in an event such as this.

Turner did not want to comment until Police Chief Ken Burton processes the recommendation.

Board Chairwoman Ellen LoCurto-Martinez said she was pleased with the way the case was handled.

“I think we had a fair, open discussion, and we came to the best decision we can,” LoCurto-Martinez said.

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Cora Mason November 16, 2010 | 8:44 p.m.

From what I heard, Turner did not turn off his audio recorder, he forgot to turn it on. Also, Turner claimed he fell while trying to cuff Billups, thought it best to not release his hold on him, and they both went to the ground. The only thing I think he should be reprimanded for is not identifying himself as an officer. Things would have went much smoother if Billups had known that it was an officer who had grabbed his hands. But, excessive force? That's a bit excessive in my opinion.

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