City settles with woman over alleged excessive use of force

Officer given two-day suspension; city denies fault in 'nuisance' claim
By Ethan Andrews | Oct 31, 2017

Belfast — The city has signed off on $15,000 settlement over alleged excessive use of force by a Belfast Police officer.

The settlement, obtained by a Freedom of Access Act request, was made to Susan Greenlaw. It resolves a complaint related to her arrest by Belfast Police at Admiral's Ocean Inn on April 12. Police records indicate Greenlaw resided in Stockton Springs and was 50 at the time of her arrest.

She was charged with harassment by telephone, refusal to submit to arrest and assault. In August, she was fined $100 in Waldo County District Court for misuse of the E-911 system, refusing to submit to arrest or detention, and physical force.

The settlement names the City of Belfast, Belfast Police Officers Brian Lunt and Jason Couture, and the city's insurer, Maine Municipal Association Property & Casualty Pool.

According to a disciplinary letter provided by the city, Greenlaw filed a complaint April 12, and based upon that complaint, Belfast Police officer Jason Couture was given a two-day suspension without pay.

In the letter, Belfast Police Chief Mike McFadden writes that Couture was in violation of the department's adopted policy on "situational use of force," which states an officer may use only the physical force which the officer "reasonably and actually believes is necessary" to protect the officer or another person.

"While I find the manner in which you effected the arrest of the above complainant to be unreasonable as well as unnecessary," McFadden wrote, "I don't believe it to be the use of excessive force."

City Attorney William Kelly denied The Republican Journal's request for an account of what happened in the arrest, citing state law that accusations of misconduct and other information related to a disciplinary action are not public documents.

The City Council approved the settlement Oct. 17. At the time, City Manager Joe Slocum said the city denies wrongdoing but opted to settle the complaint rather than fight it, which he believed would have cost the city several times as much money.

The city paid its insurance policy deductible of $10,000 toward the settlement. Maine Municipal Association Property & Casualty Pool paid the remaining $5,000.

Kelly, in an email to The Republican Journal, called it "a routine settlement for disputed allegations well within the 'nuisance' range," and that "looking at the time, employee resources and the cost for the full defense vs. a speedy resolution, it was appropriate to settle the matter."

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