Did Officers Respond Appropriately?

shot from security camera - page 1

An image captured by a City of Beacon security camera shows officers restraining the man on Fishkill Avenue.

Video of Beacon arrest prompts debate

Three minutes of cellphone footage posted to Facebook earlier this month shows four Beacon police officers converging upon and taking down a man who was apparently intoxicated or suffering from mental illness. 

The officers’ body camera footage and a security video shed more light on what happened. 

The video posted to Facebook on Feb. 6 shows a Black man and white officer in an apparent argument around midday at the busy intersection of Fishkill Avenue (Route 52) and Main Street. It’s difficult to discern much more because there is little sound and passing cars intermittently block the camera’s view of both men. 

The man walks up Fishkill Avenue, in the road and away from the officer, who follows him, before turning around and batting his arms at the officer and making contact. Within seconds, a second police officer runs into the frame and hooks the man’s arms from behind.

The second officer trips the man, taking him down, and, together, the two officers attempt to handcuff the man, who is struggling. Two more officers arrive and hold the man down while he’s cuffed.

After he is searched and helped to his feet, an officer can be heard saying: “We’re gonna get you help, all right? We’re gonna get you medical help today,” as he leads the handcuffed man to a police vehicle. 

Some people on social media criticized the police, saying the situation — which took place around 12:15 p.m. on Feb. 2, a Wednesday — would have been better handled by Lashaveous Dicker, the department’s behavioral health specialist, who was in Poughkeepsie for training at the time of the arrest. At the City Council’s Feb. 7 meeting, Council Members Dan Aymar-Blair, Justice McCray, Molly Rhodes and Paloma Wake all took issue with the police response. 

Each indicated that they realized the police were likely acting as they’d been trained. But “after somebody is completely apprehended, I don’t think that their face should be stuck against the cold pavement,” Aymar-Blair said. McCray added that “I also watched a Black man get swiped [and] kicked to the ground, and that’s not something I want to see happen in the city I live in.” 

cellphone footage

City Administrator Chris White, however, backed the police, saying the council members were commenting on something “that you have not investigated and you know very little about.”

“Our police were measured, they were professional and they were proficient,” he said. “I stand by what our police did, and I think they probably saved that guy’s life.”

After seeing the footage this week, Andrew O’Grady, the CEO of Mental Health America of Dutchess County, the agency that supplies the specialists to the Beacon and Poughkeepsie police departments, agreed that the officers responded appropriately. 

“There’s a place [for the specialist] to engage someone, but there’s also a place that’s not appropriate for that,” O’Grady said. “That [scene on the video] is not the time to have an intervention.” It would be appropriate, he said, for the specialist to help the man — who later admitted he had been smoking PCP — when he “is in a more lucid space, but not when he’s actively high on a hallucinogen.”

O’Grady also defended the officers’ use of force when subduing the man, including one officer who held the man’s head to the pavement for 20 seconds as he was cuffed. “What if the guy were to smash his own head into the ground? I’ve seen that,” O’Grady said. 

A municipal Main Street security camera, along with officers’ body camera footage, which the department allowed a Current reporter to review, filled in gaps about what happened. 

As the man crossed Main Street, he stood in the middle of Fishkill Avenue before walking away from the officer, who had arrived after a 911 call, Chief Sands Frost said on Wednesday (Feb. 16). The man then leaned against the driver-side door of a car sitting at the stoplight at Fishkill and Main. 

The officer was able to coax the man out of the traffic lane, Frost said, but the man twice squared off with the officer, as if to punch him, while muttering profanities. That point is where the cellphone video begins.

The second officer pulled into the Valero gas station on Fishkill and, from behind, could see the man putting his hands on the first responding officer. 

Frost called the leg sweep that took the man down “textbook, exactly what officers are taught.” From there, the Main Street camera shows more clearly that two officers attempt to handcuff the man (using two sets of cuffs linked together), while a third officer controls the man’s legs and the fourth holds the man’s head down with one hand and places his other hand between his shoulder blades.

That way, pressure is kept off the man’s lungs and neck, the chief noted, “but you’ll see the upper body stops moving.”

As they’re cuffing him, body camera footage picks up an officer exhorting the man to breathe, then telling him: “We’re gonna get you to the hospital, all right man?” Another officer says “watch his face,” as they roll the man over to search his pockets. 

Sgt. Tom Figlia, the department’s training coordinator, arrives as the man is being placed in a police cruiser and begins speaking with eyewitnesses. An officer can be heard calling out to notify the Beacon Volunteer Ambulance Corps to meet them at the police station. The entire interaction lasts less than 10 minutes. 

“You could use this video as a use-of-force training aid,” Frost said on Wednesday. 

The man, who is around 50 years old, was charged with disorderly conduct, resisting arrest and fourth-degree criminal possession of a controlled substance. He was sent that day to Dutchess County Jail in Poughkeepsie after speaking with Dicker, the behavioral health specialist, at the Beacon station. 

He was released from jail last week and is staying in Poughkeepsie, Frost said. He was already a past client of Mental Health America and the agency has reached out to him regarding addiction treatment, which the man has refused, the chief said. 

The man has 46 prior convictions, including five felonies, Frost said. All video footage of the incident has been turned over to the county district attorney. 

The chief and Dicker spoke in executive session with the City Council for about an hour on Monday (Feb. 14), reviewing the body camera and Main Street footage. 

On Wednesday, Aymar-Blair called the incident “a sad, sad story.” 

“The police acted in accordance with their training, policies and procedures,” he said. “But the fact remains this Beacon resident has been failed by our system for decades and will continue to be. The only way this could have ended was with an arrest, further complicating his recovery.”

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16 thoughts on “Did Officers Respond Appropriately?

  1. The unilateral closing of mental hospitals in favor of so-called community health centers has been a disaster for the mentally ill and society at large. The jails have now become the repository of the mentally ill and the police custodians constantly under the microscope of the “you should have done thus and such” town officials.

  2. A clinical social worker police officer should be at every mental-health or substance-abuse arrest. They are schooled in how to evaluate and deescalate a situation. The City of Beacon has yet to hire one.

  3. I would like to comment on the coverage of the arrest in Beacon. I am a resident of Beacon since 1993 and retired after 30 years as a psychiatric social worker with the New York State Office of Mental Health, with assignments with mobile crisis intervention in Putnam County as well as at mental health units at Downstate and Fishkill Correctional Facilities. I have been an expert reviewer for Psychiatric Services Journal, have conducted numerous trainings on the management of disturbed behavior, and have been a critical reader for a text on the management of mentally ill prison inmates.

    The comments by the city administrator, Mental Health America and the Beacon police are all well taken. The concept of a mental health professional attempting to intervene with an acutely disturbed individual who is wandering in traffic would pose an unacceptable, in fact negligent, level of risk to that individual as well as to others. It appears from the reporting that this particular individual, like many others, has had extensive contact with treatment programs. Unfortunately and obviously, these programs don’t always work, particularly with noncompliant individuals. There is always room for improvement in mental health, addiction and law enforcement agencies that are, in fact, staffed by human beings. My opinion on this particular case, based again on what I read in the article and see in the video, the only alternatives to what happened would be inappropriate and risky “mental health” intervention with an acutely irrational individual, and/or abdication of society’s obligation to protect this individual.

  4. With the current City Council, Chief Frost will have his hands full in the months ahead, no matter how the police handle any situation. In this case, they conducted themselves with admirable honor, only to face hostile individuals, none of whom ran with any opposition. Shame on us.

  5. They only used force when the man started hitting an officer. Good thing he didn’t have a knife or a gun. It’s sad that law enforcement has to wait until their lives are in jeopardy to do anything. [via Facebook]

  6. It’s ridiculous that we even have to put the police under a microscope, but this is the environment in blue states these days. With constant video surveillance and a general disdain for law enforcement, it’s amazing that we even have anyone signing up for the academy. Kudos to the officers. [via Facebook]

  7. This is a great job by these police officers. They brought the man to the ground in a method very unlikely to result in injury and immediately and consistently checked on his well-being. [via Facebook]

  8. Hindsight is always 20/20. These men do what is absolutely necessary 99.1 percent of the time, while making split-second decisions. Stop trying to make trouble. [via Facebook]

  9. Why would you ask the general public a question that an untrained person couldn’t possibly answer? Stop trying to stir up trouble. [via Facebook]

  10. Maybe the City Council members who “took issue” with the way the police handled the issue should apologize. Stop making everything a Black-and-white issue; we’d all be in a better place. Our police are here to protect all of us, no matter what race we are, and they do a great job in Beacon. These days, that’s not easy. Shame on those council members. [via Facebook]

    • Thank you, Diane, for standing up for our fine police force. We slept while all of these current City Council members ran unopposed, and now we are at their mercy. Expect them to promote all far-left causes as long as they remain in office.

  11. I respect police work enough to know that it’s irresponsible for untrained individuals to determine how well they stuck to their training. The question in the headline of this article is a divisive binary that you either support the police or criticize them.

    One of the biggest challenges around this issue is that it is difficult for council members or residents to ask how we can handle a mental health crisis most effectively using the newest tools available without someone trying to veer the conversation to whether we are anti-police. It is not anti-police to ask for a well-funded fire department to put out fires, or an ambulance service to take people to hospitals, or social services with the training and expertise to handle mental health.

    It’s a reasonable and very responsible question for our city to ask. [via Facebook]

  12. I’m appalled and embarrassed! The City Council sets the tone for issues in Beacon. They dropped the ball on this. They looked at one video and put it out there that an investigation is needed because they hated to see his face pushed to the pavement. Instead of waiting to see what happened, they stirred the pot, causing drama. I realize you are new, but do better. Applause to City Administrator Chris White for setting the record straight. [via Facebook]

  13. The people who judge these officers should try to gently restrain someone who appears to be having a psychotic episode. I have worked in the prison system for more than 25 years — a place that has become a dumping ground for the mentally ill. I have seen countless inmates have psychotic episodes, pick up and throw officers, kick and bend their cell bars and dive headfirst from their bunks into steel toilets and not even flinch. The next time you see one of these videos that media instigators show the public, maybe you will realize that the officers are trying to save this person from harming themselves or some innocent citizen. They are showing compassion. [via Facebook]

  14. After clicking through on Facebook to read your article, the answer is apparently, “Yes, they did act appropriately.”

    Unfortunately, not everyone reads the articles. I am sure you are aware that a less-alarming headline would result in fewer clicks. Such is life and media in 2022. I was hoping for better from a local paper, but it is what it is. [via Facebook]

  15. Only four members of the City Council took issue. Glory be, only two-thirds. Shades of things to come. Forty years of progress in Beacon at stake here. Welcome to Wokeville and the defunding crowd.