HAMPTON — A video of Hampton police handcuffing a man on the ground at Hampton Beach has gone viral amid public scrutiny of police, but the department’s chief said his officers did everything right.
The video showed the June 5 arrest of Renaldo Gordon, 24, of Hampton, being arrested on F Street near the corner of Ocean Boulevard. He was arrested for disorderly conduct, criminal trespass, resisting arrest and for protective custody, according to Deputy Police Chief David Hobbs. Gordon had just been escorted out of a restaurant by Hampton officers, having allegedly become intoxicated, disruptive and refusing to leave.
The video was shared 189 times on Facebook after being posted by a user named Jill Marie. She wrote in the post she took the video while walking by the scene with her friend, adding the hashtag #BlackLivesMatter. The video shows Gordon on the ground with three officers over him putting him in handcuffs. A second video in the post shows Gordon being walked away in handcuffs.
Sawyer said additional video shows more of what occurred with the exchange, which began with police being called to the Boardwalk Café to escort Gordon out after he allegedly became disruptive. He said the additional video shows his officers acted properly under the law and his department’s use of force policy, though he said the video could not be released until after Gordon’s case is closed.
“If anybody saw those videos, they would fully understand why we arrested that individual,” Sawyer said. “I’m hopeful we can resolve the case shortly, quickly, and we can put that video out.”
Sawyer said he conferred with the county attorney about releasing the video before the case is resolved, but it was determined doing so would not ensure Gordon got a fair trial. Gordon is scheduled for a June 18 arraignment in Hampton District Court.
Sawyer said the current climate around police and racism puts officers under high scrutiny for events like Gordon’s arrest, but that race was not a factor. Boardwalk owner Jimmy Trainor said Gordon refused to leave after being asked, and that standard protocol at the seasonal restaurant is for staff to call police to escort people who won’t leave for safety reasons.
“It was time for them to leave,” Trainor said. “My people handled it correctly, and I’d say the police handled it correctly.”
Sawyer said the murder of George Floyd has led to heightened sensitivity by the public that has led to peaceful protests as well as uncomfortable moments for officers. He said his department has mostly felt supported by locals the last couple of weeks.
“There’s a few dissenters, they come up and make (comments),” Sawyer said. “‘Don’t shoot,’ ‘I can’t breathe.’ The officers aren’t reacting to those.”
Sawyer said his department has been updating its training and use of force policies in the last year. He said the policies were posted this week on the department’s website after residents began reaching out with questions and concerns regarding use of force. He said the policies prioritize de-escalation and prohibit the use of chokeholds unless it’s a situation where deadly force is necessary.
He said police cannot tell officers they can’t use measures to save their life or someone else’s if a weapon like a gun is not an option, but he added the move is not taught at the New Hampshire Police Academy.
“I have never seen a chokehold utilized,” Sawyer said. “I understand the concern. I think New Hampshire has a great track record.”