On Tuesday, December 27, 2022, the Tampa Police Department terminated an officer after an internal investigation determined he had violated multiple departmental policies while booking an inmate into the Orient Road Jail. Gregory Damon was employed with the department as a patrol officer since August 2016.
An investigation conducted by the TPD Professional Standards Bureau determined that Damon was in violation of departmental policies related to: Searching, Transporting, and Booking of Prisoners; Courtesy to the Public; Reporting Response to Resistance; Treatment of Persons in Custody; and Standard of Conduct. During the investigation, Damon was found to have additionally violated policies related to Body Worn Camera, Response to Resistance, and Incompetence.
On November 17, 2022, TPD was called to the Tampa Family Health Center located at 4620 N 22nd Street for a reported individual sleeping outside the property and refusing to leave despite the request made by employees. Officers arrived to find an adult female who was previously provided a warning for trespassing on the same property on October 19, 2022. She was arrested for trespass after warning and transported to jail by Damon.
Upon arrival at the Orient Road Jail, the individual refused to exit the patrol vehicle and walk into central booking, instead yelling at the officer “I want you to drag me!” Damon took the individual by the arm, dragging her from the vehicle to the entrance of the jail where he then buzzed the door entrance, prompting two deputies to come outside and assist with raising the individual from the ground and beginning the jail intake process. The individual was uninjured during the incident. Throughout the incident, the female repeatedly used vulgar and obscene language. Rather than remaining professional, Damon himself made rude and derogatory comments to the arrestee.
In 2013, following a similar incident with an uncooperative individual in custody, TPD revised its policy on handling of uncooperative prisoners, adding in specific language to advise officers that dragging an individual who is uncooperative is never an appropriate practice and instead, the correct procedure would be to request assistance from the booking staff. Detention deputies must assist an officer with lifting the individual from the transport vehicle and securing them in a restraining chair to be rolled into the intake area.
Damon failed to follow established procedures during the incident on November 17. TPD was made aware of Damon’s actions through supervisors at the Hillsborough County Sheriff’s Office, which operates the county detention facilities. The TPD Professional Standards Bureau immediately opened an investigation into the incident on November 18. Damon was immediately relieved of his duties, pending the outcome of the investigation.
Upon review of the surveillance video and body-worn camera video related to the incident, and an interview with Damon which led to no clear reasoning for why a violation of procedure would have been justified, the decision was made to terminate Damon. He was advised of the decision on December 27.
“Professionalism is not only expected, it is demanded, in every encounter our officers have with the public, regardless of the arrestee being uncooperative or unpleasant in return. As law enforcement officers, we are held to a higher standard,” said Interim Police Chief Lee Bercaw. “The actions of one individual should not tarnish the work of the nearly 1,000 officers protecting and serving our city who, on any given day, encounter people who choose to be uncooperative during the arresting and booking process; however, they do not let the actions of that individual deter them from following the policies and procedures put in place for safety. This former officer’s actions were unacceptable and are not tolerated at this department, which is why we acted swiftly in initiating an internal investigation, relieving him of his duties, and ultimately terminating his employment.”