A former Faulkner County Sheriff’s officer was unable to reverse his termination following a grievance committee hearing involving the use of excessive force on an inmate.
Jesse Garrett, an inmate in the Faulkner County detention center, has filed a lawsuit against the county, saying that Michael Hardy used excessive force that included slamming his head against the glass in an area outside of a holding cell. Hardy was terminated on May 29 after an internal investigation cited him for not documenting the force used against Garrett during the incident.
The grievance committee recommended that the termination not be removed from Hardy’s file.
Hardy argued that no sufficient evidence was used to show that any excessive force was used during the incident, which included two other officers. The inmate was combative and made a derogatory comment about Hardy’s wife before Hardy pushed him against the glass. At the time, an investigation confirmed that Garrett’s arms were each held by other officers and his knees were on a bench in order to remove his handcuffs.
“You have to have clear cut evidence, and there was none in this situation,” Hardy said.
The former officer represented himself during the hearing after relieving attorney Keith Faulkner.
“The one thing I would do is not lie about myself. The evidence was insufficient, and it was unfair to me. I have never been written up and I had never missed a day of work.”
Rob Beard, who represented the sheriff’s office, said that the inmate was “under control” and only after Garrett made a comment about Hardy’s wife did the excessive force come into play.
Cpt. John Randall said during his testimony that Hardy did not make any documentation about force in his report ad only changed it after being interviewed. He also said that Hardy went against protocol when being drawn in personally.
“There were two other officers there, and they had control of the situation,” Randall said. “Even before that point, [Hardy] should have removed himself from the situation. We always want to believe our officers ahead of a detainee, but in this situation, we felt like our trust had been abused.”
Garrett had said he was feeling suicidal before the officers brought him down to the first floor. As they began to walk him to another area of the jail, Garrett began to confront Hardy verbally, making comments about Hardy’s wife. Hardy said at one point he was afraid Garrett would spit on him and he feared getting Hepatitis.
The incident occurred in an area of the jail where a camera was not available. Another camera showed all three officers placing Garrett in a restraining chair following the incident.
Johnny Johnson, an inmate who said he witnessed the incident and said he saw Hardy push Garrett up against the glass. Hardy attempted to show that there was no proof that Johnson was there during the incident, and no record was kept by the officer in the control room about any inmates in the area at the time. Randall made the determination that Johnson was in the area after being told so by Garrett and partially seeing an inmate using the surveillance camera.
Both other officers were questioned, and both confirmed they had control of Garrett during the time. Randall said both had been written up for not providing enough information in their reports.
The lawsuit by Garrett is one of 33 current lawsuits against the county, more specifically the sheriff’s department. The lawsuits are being handled by Rainwater, Holt & Sexton. The quorum court recently agreed to allocating funds for more risk management insurance in relation to the lawsuits.