CLEVELAND, Ohio — A Cuyahoga County jail supervisor charged with a second-degree felony was suspended 15 days for pepper-spraying an inmate while she was strapped to a restraint chair.
The terms of Idris-Farid Clark’s suspension came after the county released documents and the video in his disciplinary case as part of claim cleveland.com filed against the county in the Ohio Court of Claims.
The county spent months refusing to release the video and disciplinary records and did so after the start of mediation between the county and cleveland.com.
Subodh Chandra, the attorney for the inmate who was pepper-sprayed, called the video a “torture scene” in a statement to cleveland.com.
“They wanted to hurt her,” Chandra said.
County officials also twice released Clark’s personnel file to cleveland.com while withholding the documents of his disciplinary case, once in February and again on March 15.
A spokeswoman for the county and spokesman for the sheriff’s office have also repeatedly not answered questions or said they did not know whether Clark was disciplined in the case.
The documents released to cleveland.com say the county disciplined Clark for excessive use of force and for failing to turn his body camera on during the incident.
Sheriff spokesman John O’Brien said Wednesday he didn’t know why the disciplinary case wasn’t included in the files he released. Messages left Wednesday with Cuyahoga County Director of Communications Eliza Wing were not returned.
Clark is one of 10 jail employees charged in a variety of cases investigated by the Ohio Attorney General’s Office, including five other officers charged in connection with three attacks on inmates.
Clark pleaded not guilty to felonious assault, and misdemeanor charges of interfering with civil rights and unlawful restraint.
Officer Robert Marsh is charged with assault, interfering with civil rights and unlawful restraint, all misdemeanors, in connection with the same incident. He has also pleaded not guilty. The county on Wednesday released Marsh’s discipline in the case— a three-day suspension.
Both were placed on unpaid leave after their indictments on April 8.
The video shows what happened during the July 16, 2018 incident with Chantelle Glass.
The inmate, Chantelle Glass, was arrested and brought to the jail after a heated argument with her sister. She was never charged in the case, but was being held in the jail because she failed to show up for court for an old traffic ticket.
In a previous interview with cleveland.com, Glass said she got mad when officers refused to allow her to make a phone call to let someone know she was in the jail. That is backed up what officers wrote in their documentation of the incident released late Tuesday.
Glass’s account of what happened next differs from what officers wrote in their report. She said an officer threatened to pepper-spray her unless she stopped banging on her cell door and demanding her phone call.
Several officers wrote that Glass threatened the officers from the time she was booked to when Clark approached her cell.
Clark told investigators that he didn’t use his body camera because Glass was complying with officers. He said he ordered the restraint chair because Glass was “disturbing the pod,” the documents say.
He also said he didn’t notify his supervisor, as he’s required to do, when he ordered Glass to be put in the restraint chair, the documents say.
Clark said, and the video shows, Glass complied as the officers walked her out of her cell in handcuffs.
Several officers wrote in their reports that Glass threatened to kick the officers. Marsh strapped her arms and chest into the chair, the video shows.
Clark told investigators he had only had one officer — Marsh — strap Glass to the chair because she was “complaint” and to avoid having to do additional paperwork, the documents say.
Another officer tilted the chair back so Marsh could strap down her legs. Glass stretched out her right leg.
As Marsh tried to strap in her left leg, she again lifted her right leg. Marsh took a step back and slugged her in the face with an open-handed punch, the video shows.
Clark, who had his pepper-spray can in hand nearly the entire time, sprayed her in the face from about six-inches away and for about six seconds, the video shows.
The documents say county policy mandates an officer use pepper-spray from a minimum of three-feet away to avoid serious damage to someone’s eyes. Clark said he was aware of the policy. He told investigators that he sprayed her at close range because her face was turned.
Clark later told investigators he believes the incident could have been avoided if he had told Marsh to step away from Glass.
The video shows Glass as she was wheeled away, but does not show where she went after. The documents say she was taken for treatment in the medical unit.
Glass, who suffers from asthma, told cleveland.com that the officers locked her in a small cell by herself, poured water over her and left her there for two hours.
During his disciplinary hearing on Sept. 26, attorneys for the United Autoworkers Local Region 2B, the union that represents jail supervisors, argued that former jail director Ken Mills gave corporals wide-ranging authority to run their areas and that they didn’t need to call their sergeants in order to get authorization to use a restraint chair, the documents say.
The union also argued Clark used proper force during the incident and challenged the county to compare other disciplinary actions against officers who similarly pepper-sprayed inmates in restraint chairs.
Clark’s actions were “no different” than what “any other supervisors” had previously done, the union said, according to the documents. They also asked the county to “retract the ‘story’ from ‘Cleveland.com’ that is slandering Clark’s name,” the documents say.
Chandra, who is representing several others suing the county over jail conditions, including former medical supervisor Gary Brack, pointed out that several officers were standing nearby when the incident happened and that Clark appeared to be readying his pepper-spray before Glass was brought out of her cell.
“This appeared to be a ritual of torture— something the officers were accustomed to doing and had practiced many times,” Chandra’s statement said.