A Tennessee policeman was fired this week, after photos surfaced showing the veteran cop using excessive force when dealing with a young suspect. The incident of police brutality quickly made its way onto social media sites, and the officer was thereafter identified and fired. Knox County Sheriff Jimmy Jones said Officer Frank Phillips was terminated Monday after the damning photos emerged over the weekend.
Knoxville photographer John Messner was at the scene and captured the violence in 61 sequenced shots. According to the Daily News, Messner said: "My first gut reaction was he choked that boy out. That was excessive force… He never resisted, flinched, jerked or even said anything. He was going with the flow." The 21-year-old student, identified as Jarod Dotson, was in a raucous crowd of hundreds of end-of-the-school-year partygoers at the University of Tennessee campus. Dotson was arrested for public intoxication. Police said that he refused to go back inside, and that students were throwing beer bottles at police when they arrived.
As two deputes hold the handcuffed Dotson, the brawny Phillips is seen barbarically wrapping his hands around the student’s neck, which sent him dropping to the ground. Dotson appeared to briefly lose consciousness. After applying the choke, Phillips allegedly raised Dotson back up to his feet and delivered a slap to his face.
Messner says Dotson’s charge of “resisting arrest” is a joke. “To me it looked like he choked him till he went unconscious,” stated Messner. “There is a separate picture of the victim being walked up the block in that group. He's compliant. When they get to the paddy wagon they swap cuffs. The arresting Officer takes his personal cuffs off and they put on 'paddy wagon' cuffs to take him to jail.” That’s when the choke occurred.
The abrupt firing of Phillips speaks to the seriousness of the police brutality charge. Sheriff Jimmy Jones released a strongly worded statement, condemning the actions of the officer. “In my 34 years of law enforcement experience, excessive force has never been tolerated,” Jones said. “After an investigation by the Office of Professional Standards, I believe excessive force was used in this incident.” In a termination letter sent to Phillips, Jones criticized his “gross incompetence, inefficiency and negligence on duty.”
Your dereliction of duty and your failure to comply with departmental standards has warranted you unsuitable for continued employment with the Sheriff's Office. – Letter from Knox County Sheriff Jimmy Jones to terminated officer Frank Phillips
The 47-year-old Phillips had been with the Sheriff's Office since 1992, shares a report from Reuters. Jones said the investigation would be turned over to the Knox County Attorney General's Office to determine if any additional charges should be filed. “This incident provides a perfect example of why we are in the process of purchasing officer-worn body cameras (video and audio recordings) so incidents like this will be fully documented,” Jones said.
Phillips was named officer of the month twice in recent years, according to police records. Dotson and the university both declined to comment when media reached out to them about the incident. Dotson was released on $500 bond Sunday morning and awaits a court appearance.