Charleston police officers returning to work following altercation, suspension

CHARLESTON, W.Va. — Two Charleston police officers will be returning to work after being suspended for an Oct. 14 use of force incident.

Charleston Police Chief Opie Smith on Friday announced Patrol Officer Carlie McCoy and Patrolman Joshua Mena were acting within police department policies during the incident, in which one of the officers punched a suspect four times.

“Our officers make split-second decisions in many situations every day due to the nature of their work. We view these situations as learning opportunities so that we can become better officers and provide better service in our communities,” Smith said.

Video by the police department and witnesses show McCoy struggling to arrest Freda Gilmore outside of a Family Dollar store on the city’s West Side; Gilmore appeared to be resisting arrest and had her hands in her pockets. Mena arrived on the scene, dropped to his knees and punched Gilmore multiple times in the head.

Charleston Police Chief Opie Smith

The department’s Professional Standards Division handled the investigation.

“The force that was being used on Miss Gilmore during this situation was deemed as a level three,” Smith told MetroNews late Friday afternoon. “A level three includes strikes and punches. If a person is actively resisting, which is also a level three, and that is why these officers used a level three force to make the arrests.”

When asked by MetroNews if the officers were in the wrong in any way, following criticism from community members and family of Gilmore, Smith said, “They were within policy, the current use of force policy.”

Smith announced last week police officers will undergo additional training classes to better handle high-stress situations. He said Friday he has spoken to members of the community and Mayor Amy Goodwin’s office about reviewing the current policy.

Recommendations Smith has received includes changes in the use of force policy, additional training in defusing situations and funding for additional body cameras.

“We are looking at the use of force policy,” Smith told MetroNews. “There may be other agencies that use a different use of force that we can look at that may better for us. We may even be able to look at our own use of force policy that we can tweak and make it work better.”

The police department and members of RESET — a community group made up of local clergy and community advocates — will hold a forum next week on the use of force. The event is scheduled for Oct. 29 at a yet to be determined location.

MetroNews’ Alex Thomas and Jake Flatley contributed to this story.

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