The Herald Bulletin

February 22, 2014

Editorial: Embattled Anderson police officer should be suspended, investigated

The Herald Bulletin

---- — The City of Anderson settled four lawsuits in the past few months, all civil tort claims against Anderson Police Department and Officer Ryan Geer for allegedly battering suspects in separate incidents 2008-2010.

The combined settlements cost $120,000. City attorneys explained that they saved taxpayers money, noting that contesting the cases in court would have proved much more expensive, even if the city had prevailed.

That is certainly true, but such settlements carry with them the assumption, among the public, of the admission of wrongdoing. And the city’s willingness to settle out of court makes it an attractive target for other prospective litigants.

Local attorney Lisa DeLey had been getting calls back in 2008 complaining about Geer’s treatment of suspects. She contacted Darron Sparks, then APD’s chief, and finally got a response: Sparks maintained that Geer had done nothing wrong.

No disciplinary action has been taken against Geer, a member of the Madison County Drug Task Force, as a result of the recent settlements.

There are many troubling aspects of this case.

First, how can it be that an officer is alleged to have beaten four suspects and isn’t kicked off the force? It’s highly unlikely that Geer is innocent in all cases, and an officer who uses excessive force — even once — should face harsh disciplinary action.

A cop who is repeatedly charged should be required to turn in his badge and should face criminal prosecution. Cops can’t be criminals. They have to obey the law just like any citizen. Police brutality destroys the public’s trust, in addition to inflicting unjust harm on suspects.

Yes, officers often face violent criminals and must make split-second decisions about the use of force. But Geer seems to have gone way beyond reasonable force in several instances.

This litany of incidents, detailed by DeLey, paints a picture of an overly aggressive cop bent on doling out vigilante justice:

u In April 2008, when police responded to a report of juveniles firing guns, Geer reportedly used his rifle to strike D’vante Strong, 14, repeatedly in the head, fracturing Strong’s skull, scarring his eyelid and causing the loss of a portion of his ear.

At the time, Strong had been maced and was lying on the ground, surrounded by police officers and police dogs. Geer later said Strong reached into his waistband. But Strong had no weapon, only a pack of cigarettes and a jump rope, according to DeLey.

u In December 2009, Geer reportedly slammed handcuffed suspect Ashton Reed to the ground, causing a possible concussion.

u In January 2010, Geer reportedly struck Steve Anderson, who allegedly had run from police because he had been driving without a license, in the back of the head. The resulting injury required 20 stitches.

u In May 2010, Geer reportedly broke Roger Chandler’s jaw in four places. Chandler had led officers on a car chase, crashed and then fled on foot. When Geer allegedly attacked Chandler, he had been tasered and was lying face down on the ground, surrounded by police dogs and officers with guns drawn.

This pattern suggests that Geer is a ticking time bomb, one that has already gone off several times.

What is this man still doing on the APD force?

An investigation of Geer should be turned over to another, disinterested police agency — the state police, perhaps. In the meantime, Geer should be suspended from the APD, pending the outcome of an investigation.

In summary Anderson police officer Ryan Geer should be suspended from the APD, pending the outcome of an investigation.