A video of a Bellevue police officer forcing a woman out of her car and holding her to the ground by her neck circulated on social media over the weekend, causing outrage as protesters continue to march all over the country after the killing of George Floyd. At least one post including the video on Twitter has 5.4 million views. It’s also been shared throughout Instagram and Facebook.
Although many assumed the video, which was posted Friday, June 5, was filmed recently, the Bellevue Police Department clarified that the video is from an incident on Dec. 23, 2018. According to the department, the officer’s force was found to comply with department policy in 2018, after their use-of-force review process.
Not long after the video went viral Friday, the Bellevue Police Department Chief Steve Mylett announced that the department is prohibiting the use of neck restraints, as used on the woman in this video, in cases where “deadly force would not be justified.” Previously neck restraints were allowed as an “intermediate level of force.” The full statement can be read here.
“As a department, Bellevue Police are constantly reviewing our policies and procedures to better serve our diverse community. We recognize that neck restraint techniques, while effective, are highly controversial and divisive. Until we can have additional conversations with the Bellevue community, I have decided to stop their use until further notice, except when the officer’s life is in danger,” Mylett stated in the release.
In the video, a woman is being restrained by the officer, identified as Will Dowsing, next to her vehicle. The video can be found here.
“I swear to god, I didn’t do anything, and he’s abusing me,” she tells the person filming. She tells Dowsing she wants a sheriff.
The officer then pulls her to the ground, and gets on top of her and asks her to get on her stomach and put her arms out. She calls out for the people filming to go get her husband. Dowsing stays on top of her, appearing to use his arms to place her in a choke hold. He asks the person filming to back up when the video ends.
Bellevue police released a statement later in the day Friday regarding the incident, stating that the driver was pulled over by the officer for suspicion of failing to transfer her car title, and “refused every one of the officer’s repeated demands.” They also released the case documents.
The driver reached for her purse, which according to Bellevue police made Dowsing “fear she was reaching for a weapon.” She then realized she left the car in gear and went to move her hand to change gears, when according to Bellevue police, the officer assumed she was attempting to “flee or assault him with the vehicle.”
Dowsing then removed her from her vehicle and, according to the case file, thought she had a concealed weapon in her waistband that she kept reaching for, where the officer felt a “long hard object.” The item the officer stated he believed could be a concealed weapon was her cell phone in her sweatshirt pocket, according to the case statement.
He then used force to get her to the ground. When he had her on the ground he used a type of choke hold to keep her down. Police refer to it as a “vascular neck restraint technique,” that Bellevue police have been trained to use since 2009. This is a demonstration of the hold from September 2019.
According to the original statement, “efforts to contact (the woman) to obtain a statement as part of the use of force review process were unsuccessful.” They claimed she didn’t file a complaint and had no injuries.
Shortly after the video went viral Friday, the woman came forward to say that she did try to get in touch with Chief Mylett. Police say they had interpreted her email at the time, in early 2019, to be a records request, which can be found here.
“I sincerely regret there was a misinterpretation in the processing of this request from the individual in the video. As I’ve said all along, we take incidents involving an officer using force, very seriously,” Mylett said in an updated statement on Saturday, June 6.
She was arrested for failure to transfer the car title and refusing to comply with an officer.
Police also released additional video of the arrest, that includes her detained in the officer’s car.
“I’m scared. I don’t understand, you don’t have any backup and I don’t want to go with you,” the woman tells Dowsing in the video.
When it was first released Friday, Bellevue Police Chief Steve Mylett called the video disturbing but that “when taken in its complete context the officer’s actions were determined reasonable for the resistance he was faced with.”
This story has been updated.