Saginaw city manager, police chief comment on arrest of protester
City management determines officers acted appropriately in tasing, arresting man
SAGINAW, Mich. (WJRT) - Saginaw city management officials say they have determined that the arrest of a Saginaw man who was protesting police brutality was valid and find no violation of police policies and procedures.
27-year-old Cornelius Phelps was arrested Sunday afternoon as police officers informed Phelps and others they were on private property and needed to leave an area near the Fraternal Order of Police Lodge on Niagara on the city’s west side. The lodge is near railroad tracks and the property the protesters were on was owned by a railroad company.
Phelps was arrested after he refused to leave the area and refused to put his hands behind his back as police officers informed him he was under arrest. Phelps was tased and then handcuffed.
He was booked at the Saginaw County Jail on resisting and obstructing a police officer complaint, but was released the next day pending further investigation.
Here is the statement released by the city of Saginaw late this afternoon.
CITY OF SAGINAW STATEMENT ON USE OF FORCE INCIDENT
July 28, 2020 SAGINAW, MI – On Sunday July 26, 2020, Saginaw Police Officers responded to
1120 S. Niagara St. regarding protesters on private property at the Fraternal Order of Police
(FOP) Lodge #105. The Officers were in contact with the FOP board members who stated that
they did not give permission to anyone to protest on FOP property and wanted the protesters
removed for safety and security.
Saginaw Police Officers responded and made respectful contact with the group. Officers
explained that the protesters were on private property, which they did not have permission to be
on. The response to Officers was that they were not on private property but railroad track
property. Officers again explained that railroad property is also private, and that trespassing is
not safe to do on or near railroad tracks. Attached is a portion of the of body-cam footage that
was not included on the Facebook video; this shows the initial contact of the officers with the
protesters and their explanation of the situation.
The City has carefully reviewed both body camera and citizen recorded video of the
incident and has determined that this was a valid arrest and find no violation of police policies
Police Chief Bob Ruth provided the following statement, “Police have a responsibility for
safeguarding the well-being of the public, and this obligation even extends in qualified ways to
protecting those who violate the law and are uncooperative. The Saginaw Police Officers in this
incident followed the policy and procedure of the Saginaw Police Department and were patient
when met with resistance and continuous refusal to comply with lawful commands. Our Officers
issued approximately 80 warnings in response to the protester’s resistance before moving up
the force continuum to effectuate the arrest. They repeatedly asked for the individual to place
his hands behind his back. In dealing with individuals who are non-compliant, the police may be
required to use force in a reasonable and prudent way to protect themselves and others. In our
review, it was determined that the amount of force used was proportional to the threat and
resistance and limited to the least amount required to accomplish legitimate police action.”
Following the individual’s arrest, officers transported him to the hospital for medical assessment
prior to transporting him to the jail. The individual was released from the jail on Monday
City Manager Tim Morales commented, “It is difficult to watch video of any use of force
incident, particularly for those of us who are not trained in law enforcement and are not working
in these situations every day. I believe that every use of force incident should be reviewed not
only by police administration, but by the officers involved. In these instances, it is the city’s
responsibility to ensure the safety of the public as well as the police officers. I trust the Chief
and Internal Affairs investigators to review officer’s responses to resistance. They have proven
that they are committed to change as they have updated the use of force policy and released it
to the public. They have also shown that they are willing to act when those policies are
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