TAMPA, Fla. - It is a police takedown, caught on a cell phone camera, and it could cost the City of Tampa, or taxpayers, $165,000.
The video which is posted on YouTube shows three plain-clothed Tampa police officers and a uniformed officer detaining two individuals outside Gaspar's Grotto in Ybor. The incident happened back in 2010 after one of the men was thrown out of Gaspar's and then the two men got into a scuffle with bouncers.
At issue is that one of the men, Jacob Cowie, is hearing impaired, and according to a lawsuit filed against the officers and the City of Tampa, he did not know that the men trying to detain him were police officers because he could not hear them and because of the way they were dressed.
Even though the lawsuit isn't officially settled, the case has already led to an official policy change for Tampa Police. "The Chief has made the decision that when we have large scale events like Gasparilla," Tampa Police Spokesperson Laura McElroy explained, "officers who are going to be patrolling in heavily populated areas, they will all be in full uniform."
The other issue may be more critical, and may be the one putting the pressure on the city to the settle the lawsuit with Cowie for $165,000. In the cell phone video, you can see the uniformed officer kick at Cowie twice while he is on the ground.
According to the lawsuit, Cowie sustained serious injuries to his shoulder and his face. Those kicks have led to another police policy change according to McElroy. "In the past, our policy allowed officers to use this as a pain control technique, but it was only really suppose to be used in a situation where there is overwhelming great risk to the safety of a police officer or the public. Not in a situation where there are multiple officers trying to make an arrest. So instead of having confusion about when to use it, we just eliminated it as an accepted technique," said McElroy.
It is now up to Tampa City Council to decide if an agreement reached by its city attorney with Cowie and his attorney for $165,000 is fair. Council will decide on that this Thursday. If they do not agree to the terms, the video and the case could end up going to trial.