LIMA — One of the Lima police officers being investigated for using excessive force against a pregnant woman has received three commendations for excellent police work, but also has been reprimanded several times for operating outside departmental policies.
Patrolman Matt Boss received a commendation in 2015 after an explosion at the Husky Refinery, according to a check of his personnel file Monday by The Lima News. Boss was one of the third-shift officers who “provided a steadiness and calm that was much needed” in that dangerous situation, his supervisors wrote.
He was also honored twice in 2013. He was recognized for his “keen observation skills” in the performance of his duty, and received a commendation for his role in obtaining the location of a drug house and subsequently discovering a hydroponic marijuana growing operation in the city.
His five-year career hasn’t been without its rough spots.
Boss received a written reprimand in 2015 for engaging in a verbal exchange with the wife of an individual he was arresting. According to his file, Boss told the woman, “That’s what you get when you marry a drug dealer.” He received a departmental directive reminding him of “the importance of not being confrontational and remaining professional with the public at all times.”
On another occasion in 2013, Boss was reprimanded for subjecting a pedestrian to a frisk that his superiors said was outside the bounds of departmental policy. Boss was ordered to undergo training “to help him in his decision-making process and when and where he is legally able to conduct a search of another person.”
He also was suspended without pay for one day in 2015 following his fourth traffic accident involving a police cruiser in 12 months.
On Thursday, a video surfaced on social media of Boss and fellow Patrolman Brandon Stephenson wrestling nine-month pregnant Kenyatta Secession to the ground. It raises questions about whether excessive force was being used on 32-year-old Kenyatta Secession, or if she was resisting arrest. The video shows her being handcuffed by the officers with at least one of them appearing to put his knee on Secession’s back.
The video has raised the concern of the Lima Area Black Ministerial Alliance as well as the local chapter of the NAACP. Secession is black while Boss is a white police officer. Stephenson also is black.
Lima Police Chief Kevin Martin said the incident will be “thoroughly investigated.” Both officers will remain on active duty.
On Saturday, Secession appeared at a NAACP news conference, and said “justice was not served” and she was “afraid for myself and my child” when Boss and Stephenson wrestled her to the ground. The officers believed she had outstanding arrest warrants for failure to appear in court.
Upon questioning by NAACP officials during the news conference, Secession said scratches visible on her face were the result of an officer who “put his hand on my face against the pavement” during the incident. Secession said she was thrown to the ground by the officers, who placed their knees in her back to subdue her. Attempting to explain her advanced stage of pregnancy, Secession said the officers only told her to “stop resisting.”
The Lima woman also told NAACP officials she was on her way to the hospital when the incident began. Because she was already experiencing “leakage” associated with her advanced state of pregnancy, Secession said she had placed a towel in her pants to absorb the fluid. But the officers, the woman said, “yanked [the towel] out of my pants, which was embarrassing to me,” and also pulled her sweatshirt partially off.
“They kept telling me to stand, but I could not stand because I was hurting. And the police would not call the paramedics,” Secession said.
A resident at the scene did call for an emergency squad and a police officer accompanied Secession to the hospital, she said. She said the officer “was really rude to me … and told me I deserved to be there, in so many words. At one point the nurse told him to leave the room or be quiet,” Secession told the NAACP gathering.
Martin said charges were pending against Secession for resisting arrest, obstructing official business and possession of drug paraphernalia.
NAACP local president Ronald Fails has called for an independent investigation of the incident.
“We are not fighting local law enforcement,” he said. “We are fighting to hold local law enforcement accountable.”