Surveillance footage at a Missouri prison shows a Missouri police officer allegedly assaulting a prisoner for verbally insulting him. The officer has since been let go from his job as authorities investigate the situation further.
“Robert Watson, a former corporal with the Pevely Police Department, was charged with fourth-degree assault Monday stemming from the alleged incident April 23,” reports Fox News. “Surveillance footage purportedly shows him lunging at an inmate who was being booked for violating a court order.”
In the video, an officer presumed to be Watson stands behind the desk at the Pevely Police Department’s booking area while interacting with the inmate. Later, the officer puts the inmate into a chokehold and throws him to the floor.
“The footage ends with the cop shoving the prisoner into a jail cell and slamming the door,” reports Fox News.
Precisely what the inmate said to set Watson off has not been disclosed at this time. The inmate appears in the video to be Caucasian, though it seems that no specification of the subject’s race or ethnicity has been reported upon.
Jefferson County prosecutor Trisha Stefanski told the St. Louis Post-Dispatch that the officer let his emotions “get the best of him” and that he acted unprofessionally.
“This is a decision we don’t take lightly,” Stefanski added. “I’m a huge supporter of law enforcement, but this was unprofessional, and there was a crime committed.”
The alleged victim did not seek medical attention and did not appear to sustain any injuries. No felony charges have been brought against Watson, as a result. Pevely Police Captain Larry Miller, the department’s acting chief since March, said he “took immediate action” upon learning of the incident.
Officer Wayne Casey, who was seen sitting at a desk in the booking area as the alleged assault unfolded, has also been fired.
The treatment and abuse of prisoners has become a major part of the national conversation in recent years, especially with the Trump administration’s passage of the “First Step Act.” Signed into law last December, the bill effectively loosened some of the criteria for inmates to participate in early release programs. It has been generally backed by libertarians and many others on the broader Right. Conservative commentator Michelle Malkin hailed it as an opportunity to give criminals a second chance after doing their time.
“There’s nothing radical about giving law-breakers who served their time an opportunity to turn their lives around and avoid ending up back behind bars,” Malkin said. “More than 30 red and blue states have enacted measures to reduce incarceration, control costs and improve public safety.”
Even CNN’s Van Jones hailed conservatives for taking the legislative initiative on prison reform — an issue he feels that Democrats should be championing better.
“The conservative movement in this country, unfortunately from my point of view, is now the leader on this issue of reform,” Jones said. “You look at Mississippi, a rock-ribbed, total conservative former jailer is now the governor. Governor Bryan cut the prison population and crime at the same time. [Governor Nathan] Deal in Georgia cut the prison population and crime at the same time. … What you’re seeing now is Republican governors being tough on the dollars, tough on crime, and shrinking the prison population.”