A Florida police department is being praised for taking action to reprimand an officer and changing its policy after a “troubling” video showed the officer dragging a woman across a parking lot to jail.
The video was taken in October 2013 in the Hillsborough County jail parking lot, showing Sonja Mimminger with hands and feet tied. Officer Scott Van Treese untied her legs in the video and tried to lift her to her feet, her arms still handcuffed behind her back. When she couldn’t stand, he dragged her by her hands across the parking lot.
The 36-year-old woman told WTVT-TV the officer dragged her “like a little rag muffin,” explaining that she had never been hogtied before and was weak in the legs after her car ride in that state.
Watch the raw footage of the incident:
“It made me feel like I didn’t have much to live for. If I can’t get respect from law enforcement officers, who else can I get respect from?” she told the news station. “It was that serious to me. It was another heartache.”
Mimminger was arrested on drug charges and sentenced to 90 days in jail, but Van Treese was also punished for his treatment of her as well. The police department told WTVT that it issued the officer a written reprimand, which is a step below suspension, and has even changed its policy as a result of the video.
WTVT reporter Doug Smith in an interview with Major Diane Hobley-Burney said the footage “looks bad,” a statement with which the major agreed.
“We discovered that, as a department, we can better ourselves as well because we found that we provided training of how to get the individual that’s resisting, how to handcuff, how to put them in a car, how to transport,” Hobley-Burney told WTVT. “But what we found, that we did not fully explain what to do to get them out and so that is what we’re taking care of right now.”
Hobley-Burney added that the department is working to make sure “this situation will not ever reoccur.”
In Van Treese’s case, Hobley-Burney said he should have asked for help with the woman instead of trying to handle her by himself. Hobley-Burney added that the officer’s treatment of the woman was “not out of malice” and that she thinks the woman involved was deliberately not walking.
“She knew exactly what she was doing at the time when they had to use additional restraints to get her into the car. If she did not have the strength I would think that her legs would’ve fallen, her legs remained up in the air,” Hobley-Burney told the news station. “Once she was inside, because I continued the video and watched what happened when she was inside the booking area, I watched her get up and walk out with the paramedics that came.”
The American Civil Liberties Union in Florida praised the police department’s actions for acknowledging the wrong and finding a way to improv.
“It is always extremely troubling whenever police abuse their power or compromise an individual’s civil rights and human dignity,” the ACLU said in a statement to WTVT. “Even as more information is coming to light, questions remain about the way Tampa police handled this case and whether the officers involved followed the appropriate procedures.
“We are pleased that the department took action to reprimand the officer involved and has changed its policy, but that is only the first step: the real test of whether the police are protecting the community they serve is how they follow the law and respect the rights of the people they interact with. The ACLU will be watching to ensure that the changed policy means that what happened to Sonja Mimminger never happens in the city of Tampa again.”