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Police employee in brutality lawsuit fired

Michael P. Mayko, Staff Writer
Updated 08:51 a.m., Thursday, December 15, 2011

A Stratford businesswoman claims she was assaulted by a female Bridgeport police officer in booking while four nearby male officers did nothing to stop it. / Connecticut Post

BRIDGEPORT -- The police department detention officer depicted in a videotape pushing an arrested woman during a 2010 booking procedure has been fired by the city following investigations by the Internal Affairs and the Labor Regulation offices.

Now, Keila Farmer, the civilian officer, is challenging her termination. She has filed a grievance with the state Labor Board of Medication and Arbitration, according to Michael Bayonne, a private attorney representing the city in that matter.

"She was a civilian employee and not a police officer," Bayonne said.

A video of Farmer's interaction with Kelly Smith, a local business owner, in the department's booking area Nov. 6, 2010, made its way to the Internet and local TV news stations.

It shows Farmer arguing with Smith, who was removing jewelry at the time, then pushing Smith out of camera range. Sources claim Smith was thrown to the floor, handcuffed, then dragged by her legs to a holding cell.

Smith hired Sally A. Roberts, a New Britain civil rights lawyer, and filed a federal lawsuit against Farmer, as well as Bridgeport Police Officers Michael Dos Santos, Omar Jimenez, Edwin Rivera and Michael Sigrist, all of whom were present.

She accuses the officers of violating her constitutional right to be free from unreasonable force during an arrest.

The case is assigned to U.S. District Judge Mark R. Kravitz in New Haven. He has given the city until Jan. 12 to respond to the charges.

Farmer is represented by Richard J. Buturla, a Milford lawyer.

"As a matter of policy, we make no comment on pending litigation other than requesting that people reserve judgment until the matter is concluded," Buturla said Wednesday.

Associate City Attorney Richard G. Kascak Jr., who is representing the four police officers, also declined comment.

All of this stems from a domestic dispute between Smith and her husband over the operation of Tires and Wheels, their North Avenue business.

Following an argument at the business, Smith pursued her husband's car and rear-ended it on North Avenue. Police were called and Dos Santos charged her with breach of peace and interfering with an officer during the investigation of the accident, according to court papers and Frank Riccio, Smith's criminal lawyer.

An additional charge of third-degree assault was lodged following the booking cell fracas.

But Riccio said that as soon as state prosecutors viewed the booking tape, they dropped an assault charge against his client.

Smith pleaded guilty to breach of peace and interfering with a police officer and was fined $750, according to court records.

The video made available last week shows Farmer talking to Smith, apparently asking her to place her belongings, which included jewelry and cash, on the counter. Words are exchanged before Farmer pushes Smith out of camera view. Smith is next seen on the ground being handcuffed with the assistance of some of the male officers.

"The video speaks for itself," Roberts said.

Roberts claims Farmer assaulted her client, shoved her against the wall and pulled out clumps of her hair.

Smith filed a citizen's complaint against Farmer on Nov. 10, 2010.

Sgt. Manuel Cotto advised Smith by letter that the Internal Affairs investigation determined Farmer "did violate several of the City of Bridgeport's work rules and regulations. These sustained charges have been referred to the City of Bridgeport's Labor Relations Department for further review."

Cotto, who is assigned to Internal Affairs, also advised Smith her claim of excessive force has been closed because investigators were unable to prove or disprove the allegation.

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