A white correctional officer in southwestern Indiana who is seen in body camera footage punching a Black inmate during a struggle has been fired.
Monroe County Sheriff Ruben Martè said Friday that the decision to terminate James Mitchell was part of his vow to make “accountability and transparency” a “top priority” of the sheriff’s department.
Mitchell and two other officers at the county jail in Bloomington were attempting to move Marcus Ford from a holding cell to a medical observation cell Jan. 31 after the inmate complained of health issues to nurses at the facility.
Ford refused to leave the holding cell. In the footage released by the sheriff’s office, Ford is seen threatening the officers if they try to move him.
“Soon as you touch me, it’s going down,” Ford says. “You all better know how to fight.”
He later repeats: “I’m not going in that room. I’m not going in that room.”
As the officers move in, Mitchell is struck in the mouth and suffers a bloody lip. He is seen throwing punches at Ford’s head and striking Ford as the inmate is being restrained by other officers.
Martè said Ford suffered a broken nose and broken orbital bone.
A document detailing the decision to fire Mitchell states that he failed to transition to nonviolent strategies, failed to reduce the need for force and failed to comply when instructed twice to leave the area, WTTV-TV reported.
“No corrections officer wants to have to use force when they come to work,” Martè said. “But even when my staff is forced to use force due to a combative inmate, they must continue to follow our policies requiring de-escalation whenever the situation allows it.”
Martè ordered an internal review and asked the state police to conduct an independent investigation. The state police presented their findings to the county prosecutor, who decided not to press criminal charges against Mitchell.