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Salinas Chief defends officers cleared of charges in violent arrest

No charges will be filed against the officers involved in a violent arrest last month. Video of the incident went viral and the debate over excessive use of force began. On Wednesday, NewsChannel 5 spoke with Police Chief Kelly McMillin’s policy on use of force during Jose Velasco’s arrest.

Velasco, 28, is accused of felony assault likely to produce great bodily injury on his mother, Rita Ramirez, removing a Salinas Police officer’s Taser while resisting arrest and misdemeanor assault on a firefighter treating him.

Video of his arrest was captured on a cellphone, where officers were see using batons.

“I had an emotional response to that video,” McMillin said in about his reaction to the video.

But he said it doesn’t tell the whole story.

“We live in a 1-minute attention span world,” McMillin said.

Jumping to conclusions about use of force is easy to do. But let’s break it down and use the baton as an example.

“It’s a least favorite tool by an officer,” McMillin said.

McMillin said the baton is used to gain control of a suspect but unlike the Taser and peppers spray, it sometimes does result in injury.

“We train striking on the long muscle group of the upper arms the forearms, the shins and the thighs,” McMillin said.

McMillin said they try to avoid key areas like the head, torso and major joints.

“Nobody in the four shootings deserved to get shot,” McMillin said.

Officers in two of the four deadly police shootings last year have been cleared of charges, partly because the Monterey County District Attorney’s office said the suspects forced officers to take action.

“We don’t require officers to start with verbal commands and then attempt empty handed controls and then use our pepper spray, then our Taser and then escalate to a baton,” McMillin said.

In Velasco’s case, medical records he agreed to release, said he was high on meth at the time of his arrest. McMillin said someone’s mental status is irrelevant when they become violent.

“Even if the officers know that well when this guy smokes meth, this guy goes crazy it’s almost a “so what” proposition because why he’s doing it is less important in the moment than stopping what he’s doing,” McMillin said.

As details emerge, opinions change but not all the facts in this story are out there yet. The DA’s Office said Velasco could face up to five years in prison if he’s found guilty. All the officers involved are back on duty except for one. McMillin said that officer is being kept in house over safety concerns.

Velasco will be arraigned on the charges against him Thursday afternoon in Monterey County.

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