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Politics and Government

Syracuse police chief says use of force ‘appropriate’ in viral arrest video

Tom Magnarelli
WRVO File Photo
Syracuse Police Chief Kenton Buckner, left, with Syracuse Mayor Ben Walsh, center.

After an internal review, Syracuse Police Chief Kenton Buckner said that police officers’ use of force in an incident that was recorded and shared on social media, was appropriate. But Buckner said the officers’ language and initial manner of interaction was not consistent with department policy.

Police officers forcefully removed Shaolin Moore, 23, from his car, after he failed to comply with officers’ request to step out. Moore was playing loud music and the violation is a form of arrest. Moore resisted, which led officers to grab Moore by his wrist and the back of his head. A passenger in the car with Moore recorded the incident on his phone. While on the ground, an officer punches Moore in the face, after officers thought Moore was reaching for something near his waist. Chief Buckner described it as low-velocity, closed-fist strikes.

“Yes, he was struck a couple of the times to the head and face, but if you look at the velocity of those punches, it was clearly no intent on the part of our officers, to harm Mr. Moore," Buckner said. "It was used as a distraction technique.”

Buckner said use of force was needed because Moore was resisting arrest. 

"We told him what we were doing, why we were doing it, and why he was under arrest," Buckner said. "We have a duty to do that. I think we also have significant opportunities for how we do that. Maybe we need to slow down. That will be a part of emphasis going forward with our training, to make sure we are trying to prevent as many of these encounters as we can."

Two officers were disciplined regarding their demeanor during the incident. Officers can be heard using explicit language.

The video spurred a protest from Syracuse residents and some common councilors condemned the conduct of the police officers. Syracuse Mayor Ben Walsh said it was emotional watching the video.

In the first half of the year and under Buckner’s direction, the police department developed a new use-of-force policy which includes a section on de-escalation. Buckner and Walsh will hold a community forum on the new policy later this month.