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Grand Rapids, Michigan Officer Fired for Excessive Force, Avoids Criminal Charges

by Derek Gilna

Former Grand Rapids, Michigan police officer Kevin Penn lost his job after a "use of force" complaint in which he pressed a rifle barrel into the head of a restrained and prone suspect, but  he avoided criminal charges.   Penn and other officers had responded to a dispatch on August 19, 2017, regarding a suspect suspected of being armed, and tased him when he did not immediately comply with their orders to surrender.

Internal affairs got involved when body and dash cam footage, as well as police reports, revealed that Penn had apparently used excessive force on the suspect, after he was already on the ground and in handcuffs. According to the report, "The suspect is moving his head and you can see the muzzle of the rifle actually moving the skin/scalp on the suspect's head, forcing his head down. Officer Penn's decision to press the muzzle against the suspect's head is not based on any training done at the Grand Rapids Police Department, or subject control principles."

That report was enough for the police department to terminate Penn, but he faced another challenge, criminal charges. However, on October 3, 2017, Kent County Prosecutor Chris Becker announced that he would not seek an indictment.

In his statement, Becker said, "There was no injury to the suspect.  There were no abrasions, cuts, or any other sort of injury from the gun making contact with his head," and he never sought medical attention. Nonetheless, "We do not condone the behavior of the officer, nor should this be seen as approval for this technique in the future.  It is simply under these specific facts we are not charging the former officer given all the circumstances presented in this incident."

The suspect, whose name was not revealed, was apparently highly intoxicated at the time of the incident, and did not possess a weapon.  Although cited for resisting arrest, he was later released.



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