MANCHESTER — A veteran police officer was suspended for using unnecessary force and his supervisor was demoted for neglect of duty in the same case, according to documents released Friday.
Officer Rob Johnson punched a suspect in the face in July, police said. The longtime K-9 officer was ordered to serve a five-day suspension, starting on Monday. Johnson also was ordered to surrender his gun and badge, and his police powers will be suspended for the five days, according to a department memo.
Cleon Moses, formerly a sergeant, was demoted to officer after an internal investigation found “serious misconduct,” including neglect or inattention to duty and failure to properly supervise subordinates, according to a disciplinary agreement.
On July 2, Johnson and his canine Vito responded to a report of a man assaulting a pregnant woman at the Squire Village housing complex, a police report says. The suspect, Terell Phillips, had punched his pregnant girlfriend in the mouth, knocked her down and choked her, police said. She and Phillips were arguing, the victim told police, because Phillips wanted her to get an abortion, the police report said.
To get away from Phillips, the woman had run outside and locked herself and a small child in a car, police said. When Johnson arrived, Phillips was leaning on the car and Johnson ordered him to the ground, warning Phillips that the dog would bite him if he did not comply, the report said. Phillips resisted every attempt to get him to calm down and comply with orders, Johnson wrote. Other officers arrived and Phillips continued to resist, at one point spitting in Johnson’s face, the report said.
Johnson wrote that he picked Phillips up and carried him to a cruiser, where Phillips continued to resist and tried to kick Johnson in the head, the police report says.
“Terell went from actively resisting to actively attempting to assault me,” Johnson wrote. “At this point, I used a closed fist and hit Terell in the side of the head (the only target immediately available to me) twice to stop him from kicking me any further.”
Phillips, who was arrested on charges that included assaulting a pregnant person, assaulting police personnel and interfering with police, also called Johnson a racial slur , according to the report. Both Johnson and Phillips are black, police Chief Marc Montminy said.
An internal investigation found that Johnson violated the department’s code of conduct regarding use of force, a department memorandum says. The investigation also found that Moses “didn’t behave in the manner that we would expect a supervisor to behave,” Montminy said.
“The Manchester Police Department has high expectations for its officers, and this incident did not meet our expectations,” the chief said.
Dated Oct. 23, the disciplinary agreement for Moses says police administrators, the police union and Moses all agreed to the findings of the internal investigation and that the demotion is not subject to grievance “or any other claim.”
Both Johnson and Moses joined the department in 1998, Montminy said. Police union head Sgt. John Rossetti said he had no comment on the case.