Cincinnati, OH – A Cincinnati police officer who was brutally assaulted by a violent suspect must now undergo questioning by the city’s Citizens Complaint Authority, even before his attacker’s case goes to court.
Someone filed a third-party excessive force complaint against Cincinnati Police Officer Doug Utecht, claiming he was abusive towards the assailant, 25-year-old Durrell Nichols, during an altercation at the Gamble-Nippert YMCA in June of 2019, WXIX reported.
Officer Utecht and several other officers responded to the facility after employees called to report that a man was acting disorderly and refusing to leave.
“He was called to the scene there because this suspect was harassing young ladies on the basketball court,” Cincinnati Fraternal Order of Police President Dan Hils told WLWT. “And the staff there wanted him [Nichols] removed.”
“The officer was using all the patience in the world just to have this subject just leave,” Hils explained. “And then out of nowhere, he just attacks the officer and starts absolutely brutalizing him. He was a very large man. And the officer almost lost consciousness. It was a life-and-death situation.”
Officer Utecht suffered bruises to the side of his head, a severe cut to his forehead, and his eye was swelled shut due to the attack, WXIX reported.
Nichols was arrested on multiple felony counts, but was found incompetent to stand trial several months after the altercation.
Just two weeks ago, the court determined Nichols is now competent to stand trial, WLWT reported.
But according to Hils, the officers who responded to the scene are the ones who are really on trial.
The Citizens Complaint Authority investigation was opened after a bystander at the YMCA filed a complaint alleging that the officers used excessive force against Nichols, failed to read him his Miranda rights, and that they made no attempts to de-escalate the situation, WXIX reported.
“He’s being interrogated by this civilian complaint authority. It makes no sense whatsoever,” Hils told WLWT. “Now he’s being questioned before the bad guy even faces his day in court…This particular case is a personal insult to us as police officers.”
Hils said that the complaint board should hold off on investigating the officers until after Nichols’ trial is concluded, WXIX reported.
“The process is wrong,” the union president told WXIX. “To be having these officers face – from an outside agency – interviews and interrogations referencing criminal cases…in some cases they’re dealing with confidential informants, all these things that they would have to possibly talk about or could be questioned about in these interviews, could threaten these criminal cases.”
Officer Utecht is due to appear before the Citizens Complaint Authority on Thursday.
“Justice hasn’t been served all the way,” Hils explained. “[Nichols] hasn’t been tried. He hasn’t been sentenced, but yet we’re being put under suspicion.”
“[Officer Utecht] did noting wrong,” he continued. “The [Citizens Complaint Authority] should be able to see that. Our own internal affairs, our own administration was able to see that from the video.”
Iris Roley, a longtime advocate of the police complaint process, said that the board must investigate citizens’ complaints within 90 days, WLWT reported.
“This a matter of life and death, policy and procedure and making sure that the citizens understand that they have a right, role and responsibility in how their government works for them,” Roley told the news outlet.