An Austin Police officer is facing disciplinary action after he used pepper spray on a suspect who was already handcuffed. He's been suspended for 45 days without pay. Chief Art Acevedo hopes this will serve as a lesson to other officers, that lesser means should've been used.
The arrest during SXSW became controversial after cell phone video surfaced and went viral. Since then, the officer's actions that day have been called into question. The actions of one officer are weighing heavy on the Austin Police Department. You see pepper spray being used on a handcuffed suspect.
"There was no exigency for him to just open the door, pepper spray him and close the door. We've accomplished nothing, right? The guy just continues. We are better than that," says Chief Art Acevedo, Austin Police Department.
It was March 17th when Tyrone Wilson was arrested by APD for public intoxication, handcuffed and placed in a prisoner transport van. Wilson reportedly kicked the door several times and was asked repeatedly by Officer Cameron Caldwell to stop.
When he did not comply, he was pepper sprayed in the face. But at that moment, Wilson was not acting aggressively. According to APD, the use of pepper spray was not reasonable and lesser means could have been used to control the suspect.
"You need to immobilize the legs, that's the way we're trained. When people are using their legs to kick at the officers, to kick at equipment, kick out windows or do the things that people do when under the influence of alcohol, drugs, mental illness or just angry - you have to immobilize the legs," says Acevedo.
A disciplinary review hearing was held Tuesday where it was found that several policies were violated. This resulted in Officer Caldwell receiving a 45 day suspension without pay. The Peaceful Streets Project, who captured the incident on camera, says the punishment is too lenient. Although the Austin Police Association thinks the opposite.
"It could have led to a foot pursuit. The guy could have jumped out of the back of the van, run across 7th street and been run over by a car. There are so many things that could have happened. It's just that all you see is the use-of-force, which is the pepper spray. You don't see or even think about the things that could have happened," says Ken Casaday, Austin Police Association President.
Chief Art Acevedo says part of the problem is that 6th street has become a very challenging environment. Just a few weeks ago there was a shooting where an innocent woman was killed.
"We have got to take 6th street back. People are going out there, they're acting a fool, they're getting drunk, they're coming out at bar closing. We're going to start holding people accountable," says Acevedo.
Officer Caldwell must also follow other conditions, such as meeting with a psychologist. If counseling is recommended he must complete that as well. If not, he could be indefinitely suspended.
The Austin police officer caught on video using pepper spray on a man handcuffed inside a police wagon during SXSW has been suspended for 45 days.
Officer Cameron Caldwell reportedly agreed to the deal after negotiations with Austin Police Chief Art Acevedo.
Officer Caldwell was caught in March on video by the Peaceful Streets Project using pepper spray on a man handcuffed inside a police wagon in the Caritas parking lot.
You can view a copy of the disciplinary memo here.