COLUMBUS, Ohio — Firing was too severe a punishment for an Ohio police officer who subdued a restrained suspect in a way that appeared to show him kicking the suspect in the head, an arbitrator said Monday in a ruling that reinstated the officer.
The decision nonetheless criticized Columbus officer Zachary Rosen for using an “untrained technique” that was too severe for the situation. The ruling reduced the discipline against Rosen to the equivalent of a three-day suspension without pay, the original punishment recommended by the department police chief before the city safety director overruled her.
A video taken last year showed a Columbus officer restraining a prone man and preparing to handcuff him when Rosen arrives and appears to kick the man in the head.
Rosen used more force than necessary but there was no evidence he was trying to injure the suspect, arbitrator Mitchell Goldberg said in a 28-page ruling. Rosen has always denied kicking suspect DeMarko Anderson in the head, saying instead he was aiming for his shoulder.
Goldberg noted Rosen could have used less forceful options such as dropping a knee on the suspect’s shoulder.
Regardless of whether Anderson’s “neck bounced off the pavement because the boot made contact with his face, neck or head, or whether the severe collision was caused entirely by the force of the blow to the upper body shoulder area, the level of force delivered was severe,” Goldberg said.
The arbitrator said Rosen’s overall record, willingness to follow proper use-of-force techniques in the future and “his intelligence level” argued for the lesser penalty.
A message was left with the police union representing Rosen. The union opposed the firing.
Rosen can return to work immediately but must be processed and make up training he missed while he was gone, so he won’t be back on the streets until that happens, said Columbus police spokesman Sgt. Dean Worthington.
Rosen was also involved in the fatal shooting of a man in 2016 that led to criticism of the police department and a lawsuit.
Columbus police say 23-year-old Henry Green, who was black, ignored commands to drop his gun during the shooting by Rosen and a second officer, who are both white.
A grand jury declined to indict the officers last year, and last month an internal Columbus police investigation cleared them.
Green’s family said in a wrongful death lawsuit last year there is no evidence to back up police claims that witnesses heard them identify themselves as police officers before opening fire, or that Green pointed a weapon at the officers.
Andrew Welsh-Huggins can be reached on Twitter at https://twitter.com/awhcolumbus .