Originally created 10/06/04

Report justifies officer's actions



A school police officer was justified in hitting a Butler High School student with a metal baton during a riot last month, according to an internal affairs report.

Public safety officer Ronnie V. Collins has been cleared of using excessive force against 17-year-old Christopher White. The report states that Officer Collins was reacting to several hallway fights that broke out Sept. 1 while students were returning from their third bomb-threat evacuation. The officer said he ordered Christopher three times to stay back. When the teen did not comply, Officer Collins struck him on the rear of his left bicep with his asp baton, the report says.

The teen's mother, Monique White Brabham, said the internal review was written without statements from student witnesses and prior to a tribunal panel finding his son not guilty of wrongdoing.

"Christopher was actually trying to help by breaking up the fight, and Officer Collins grabbed him out of the crowd, held his left arm - I guess Christopher was trying to run at this point - but he's holding him and beating him in the back," Ms. Brabham said. "Personally, I think Officer Collins was out of control, nervous and scared."

In a statement to police, Christopher said he was holding his friend against a wall. "(Officer Collins) came to me and struck me on my back as I held a friend back against the wall," he said.

The internal report, written by Public Safety Sgt. Ike Williams, says that the officer had to use defensive measures against a mob of students who refused to go to class.

"Due to the large number of unruly students, Officer Collins was justified in using necessary force to defend himself and the school's staff," the report states.

School policies allow the use of force when necessary but require officers to use the minimum amount necessary to perform their lawful duties.

Ms. Brabham said her son suffered a light bruise. After being found not guilty by the school tribunal panel, Christopher has returned to school. His mother told him to avoid Officer Collins. She is upset that the school district did not punish the officer.

"He assaulted my son unfairly. I am disappointed that the school system did nothing to Officer Collins," she said. "The school board should have done something against him for his behavior."

Reach Greg Rickabaugh at (706) 828-3851 or greg.rickabaugh@augustachronicle.com.