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Arbitrator calls deputy’s force excessive

A Spokane County Jail officer was properly fired last year for discourteous behavior and excessive force against an inmate, according to an arbitrator’s ruling.

Any force used by Deputy Wayne S. Green, 42, would have been excessive because there was no reason for it, arbitrator Luella Nelson ruled Thursday.

Green had requested the arbitration after a grievance filed by his union was denied, according to previous news accounts.

Nelson said a grainy, soundless surveillance video and the testimony of other officers indicated that Green turned on bar-fight suspect Daniel W. Clinger after an angry confrontation with Deputy Shawn Smith.

“By all accounts,” Nelson said, Green was angry that Smith had removed Clinger from a holding cell in the booking area, where unruly suspects are placed to calm down or sober up.

Smith went to the cell when Clinger loudly requested to use an inhaler that had been taken from him. Smith said Clinger was cooperative, and he decided to go ahead and book him.

Green told investigators that Clinger had banged on the holding cell door and yelled several times that he needed his inhaler, but Green refused to provide it.

“If the inmate could yell and had the energy to kick the door for several hours, he did not need an inhaler,” Green said in an interview.

Nelson said it was common for prisoners to bang and yell because there was no other way to get jailers’ attention.

She said discipline short of termination might have been appropriate in the November 2008 incident, but Green had a history of problems.

He had been reprimanded for making derogatory comments to a deputy, and for abuse of authority for threatening to arrest a patrol officer over an off-duty dispute at a local gymnasium. Green also was verbally warned for using foul language with an inmate several months after the incident in question.

Green’s union representative said his only mistake was to argue with Smith in front of a prisoner, but Nelson said the surveillance video showed Green turned on Clinger when Smith “declined to rise to the bait.”

Green goaded Clinger “into an increasingly animated discussion,” according to Nelson.

The arbitrator said it wasn’t clear from the surveillance video that, when Clinger touched his nose, he was flipping off Green as Green claimed – or that Green struck Clinger in the face, as Clinger claimed.

But the video showed Green immediately “made physical contact” without talking to Clinger about the perceived insult, Nelson wrote. That was “rash and unnecessary, and in violation of policy,” she said.

Nelson rejected a union argument that Sheriff Ozzie Knezovich was bound by the “much milder” discipline administered by his predecessor.

Green still faces a fourth-degree assault charge in District Court for his alleged violence against Clinger.

Nelson noted the criminal count was filed after Detective Richard Gere read the investigative file and changed his initial opinion that Green used no excessive force.