Excessive force claim against local cop being investigated

Still frame from video that shows booking room confrontation that is under investigation.

TAUNTON, Mass. (WPRI) — The city of Taunton is paying a private company to examine claims that a veteran police detective used excessive force in a confrontation that was caught on camera.

Mayor Thomas Hoye confirmed APD Management Inc. was hired to look into the incident involving veteran Detective Robert Kramer, recorded by cameras on June 1 in the police station booking room. Kramer had just arrested Taunton resident Joseph O’Brien, who claims he did nothing to provoke Kramer. O’Brien is the fifth person in seven years to accuse Kramer of excessive force.

Police Chief Ed Walsh did not return phone calls or emails from Target 12 regarding the decision to use an outside investigator, but according to the city’s mayor, it was Walsh’s idea.

“In the spirit of transparency, Chief Walsh thought it was best to have an independent investigation,” said Mayor Hoye. “To the best of my knowledge, the investigator is only looking into the incident caught on film.”

Hoye said the cost to taxpayers for the investigation would be about $5,000.

When Target 12 first reported this incident, Walsh wrote in an email that Kramer was reassigned from the department’s Street Crimes Unit, pending the results of an internal investigation. O’Brien claims he was sitting on a stoop in the Taunton Green when Kramer approached him.

“I didn’t know he was a cop,” O’Brien said. “(Kramer) said, you know who the (expletive) I am? I’m Kramer. I’m Kramer.”

In the incident report, Kramer stated O’Brien was the aggressor, leading to his arrest for disorderly conduct. A short time later, the police station camera recorded the booking process. The incident report states”O’Brien immediately went after Detective Kramer” after the handcuffs were removed.

“I swear I did nothing to deserve this.”

 

                     – Defendant Joseph O’Brien

O’Brien’s attorney Ken Fredette alleges that is one of several statements in the report that does not match the video. Fredette claims the video shows that O’Brien did not do anything “immediately” after the handcuffs were unlocked.

“He’s not aggressive in any way,” Fredette said, referring to the video that shows O’Brien walk slowly away from the detective. About 23 seconds later, Kramer approached O’Brien from behind.

There’s the elbow to your head,” Fredette said to his client as they watched the video. “Turns you around, elbow to the face, he grabs you around the neck.”

Seconds later, the two are on the floor with two other unidentified officers in the scrum as well. About 40 seconds later, O’Brien is virtually motionless in the doorway, with only his white sneakers showing on screen.

Detective Robert Kramer, wearing black, and Joseph O'Brien during June arrest.
Detective Robert Kramer, wearing black, and Joseph O’Brien during June arrest.

“I remember just looking down at the ground,” O’Brien said. “And I was getting kicked, punched. I got knee-bombed in the head.”

According to a statement to a private detective working for O’Brien, a man in a nearby jail cell said the confrontation continued outside the booking room. Matthew Mendonca claims he heard the “sound of two or more punches” and that Det. Kramer was “out of control,” yelling, “there’s no cameras in here you (blank). Come on.”

He’s screaming in my face. I’m getting spit on. (Expletive) you. You’re a (expletive). Fight me, fight me right now. If you fight me right now, I’ll let you go,” O’Brien recalled Kramer saying.

The incident report portrays O’Brien as aggressive, loud and defiant, and states Kramer ended up with scratches, bruises and a bloody lip after the scuffle. Medical records indicate O’Brien was treated for bruises, abrasions and a concussion.

“What I see is an officer who is out of control, bullying an individual who’s in handcuffs,” said Fredette. “And then to read the report, to hear the officer indicating he’s some sort of victim. I’m disgusted by the whole thing I saw.”

Chief Walsh defended the detective’s record, calling him “a decorated and proactive police officer.”

Records obtained by Target 12 indicate O’Brien is one of five people arrested by Kramer since 2007 who claim the detective used excessive force. According to a statement made in court during a hearing for the O’Brien case, Taunton paid a $65,000 claim for injuries suffered by Celinda Kaye during a 2007 incident. Kramer alleged Kaye interfered with a drug-related arrest, but the charges were dropped in 2008. Kaye claimed Kramer beat her, causing “multiple facial fractures, (and) two broken ribs.”

In his statement to Target 12, Walsh said the settlement was for less than Taunton’s insurance deductible.

“The decision to settle was clearly financial and not reflective of the city’s belief that they would prevail at trial,” he said.

Another case surfaced in May 2011, when according to court documents, Roberto Alvarez-Delgado claimed Kramer “assaulted (him) causing physical injuries.” According to Alvarez-Delgado’s attorney, the assault charges were dismissed on the day his attorney expected to get Kramer’s personnel file, following a motion that was granted by the judge in the case.

Also cited in a court document is the arrest of Ulises Saldana, who claimed Kramer threw him “to the ground and repeatedly kicked him.” Saldana was arrested for resisting arrest, and according to court documents he was granted a motion to get Kramer’s personnel file.

According to a motion filed in O’Brien’s case to obtain those same personnel records, a woman named Rosemary Jenkins “alleges abusive treatment at the hands of Detective Kramer.”

“Ms. Jenkins has hired counsel to pursue a civil claim against Detective Kramer,” the motion states.

Send tips to Target 12 Investigator Walt Buteau at wbuteau@wpri.com and follow him on Twitter @wbuteau.

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