Attorneys for Timothy Davis, an unarmed black man whose brutal beating in a local market at the hands of Columbus, Ohio, police was caught on video, have filed a civil rights complaint against the city.
According to the Associated Press, the federal lawsuit filed Monday claims that Columbus police have used excessive force, particularly toward black residents, despite being sued nearly 20 years ago by the federal government for improper police conduct.
Davis was arrested Sept. 1 inside a Columbus convenience store on a warrant alleging that he had assaulted a police officer. Cellphone footage caught at least four plainclothes officers kicking and punching Davis on the ground, calling for him to stop “resisting.”
The lawsuit alleges that other cops shielded the officers attacking Davis from witnesses to block them from seeing the arrest, and that the Columbus Police Department’s claims that Davis was trying to harm the arresting officers were false.
After the incident, CPD spokesperson Sgt. Dean Worthington told NBC4i that officers were “allowed to punch” and “allowed to kick,” depending on the suspect’s behavior.
“We have the authority, we have the responsibility to arrest people, and sometimes arrests can be ugly,” said Worthington.
But the U.S. Department of Justice has also accused the CPD of doing too much.
As the AP reports, in 1999 the DOJ filed a complaint against the department, saying that it had been “routinely violating citizens’ civil rights through illegal searches, false arrests and excessive force.” Further, the lawsuit alleged that police supervisors condoned the misbehavior and didn’t adequately discipline officers who had violated the law.
Not only did the city and police union deny the DOJ’s claims, but Columbus ended up fighting the lawsuit in court—becoming the first in the nation to do so. A federal judge dismissed the case three years later after the city claimed that it had changed the way it handled complaints against its officers and its use of police force.
According to Davis’ lawyers, his violent arrest proves that that was all lip service, writing in their suit that more than 17 years later, “the unconstitutional conduct of the City of Columbus Police Department towards civilians, particularly African-Americans, has not changed.”
Read more at U.S. News & World Report.