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Northampton City Councilor Jesse Adams raises questions about use of force in arrest of Jonas Correia

At-large City Councilor Jesse Adams, chairman of the public safety committee, asked for the informational meeting with the Northampton Police Department after the use of pepper spray on Jonas Correia and his subsequent arrest March 31 on Pleasant Street on charges of disorderly conduct and resisting arrest.

The arrest sparked controversy after a video recording which has been viewed about 80,000 times was posted on YouTube .

After the meeting, Adams said he had a better understanding of police procedures when it comes to determining how much force to use but still has questions.

Adams said he was not certain that what could be seen in the video was enough to warrant the use of pepper spray, but acknowledged that Correia’s behavior in the moments before the camera started recording could have been what triggered the officer’s response.

Northampton Police Officer Peter Sharac gave a 30-minute presentation explaining how officers determine when and how much force to use.

Sharac said officers are trained to determine whether a suspect may comply with an officer’s instructions or may be assaultive and intend to do harm to themselves or others, and what types of force are allowed in each situation.

Sharac said that determination is largely based on the officer’s own judgment. “Nobody in the world can tell me my threat perception is wrong,” Sharac said.

Sharac said “actively resisting” an officer’s instructions can result in the use of pepper sprayed or other “compliance techniques” such as putting a suspect in a “wrist lock” or using a police baton on pressure points of the body.

Sharac defined active resistance as when a suspect uses physical or mechanical means to resist an officer such as latching on to a steering wheel or pulling away from an officer.

When asked by Adams about how the decision to apply force in Correia’s case was made, Northampton Police Chief Russell P. Sienkiewicz said he would not comment on any specific cases.

Sienkiewicz said that each use of force by an officer, regardless of the severity, is reported and subject to an internal review.

In May, the Northwestern district attorney’s office said officers had probable cause to arrest Correia and did not use more force than was necessary. The district attorney’s office dropped the resisting arrest charge and converted the disorderly conduct charge to a civil infraction.

Bob Dunn can be reached at bdunn@gazettenet.com.

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