RTA officer disciplined for altercation caught on video

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CLEVELAND (WJW)– A Greater Cleveland Regional Transit Authority officer was disciplined after he was caught on camera in an altercation with a man, who fell onto train tracks. The punishment comes just as another RTA officer was fired for slamming a man to the ground at another rapid station a month earlier.

A surveillance camera captures an encounter between RTA police officer Patrick Rivera and a man on the platform of the Brook Park Rapid Station around noon on Feb. 16.  The video appears to show Officer Rivera push the man, who tumbles onto the train tracks below.

“The camera only catches a 10th of the action… It’s a moment caught in time,” said Otto Holm, Jr. senior staff representative for the Fraternal Order of Police/Ohio Labor Council, Inc.

According to a transit police report, Rivera was responding to a man refusing to move his belongings to allow a custodian to clean. The officer said when he asked the man to pick up his things, he became aggressive, cursing, calling him derogatory names and, ‘Threatening to shoot me and throw me on the tracks when the train came through.”

According to Rivera’s account, the man became more aggressive as they walked to the platform and lunged at him twice. 

“I then pushed the male back… The male fell onto the platform…r Rolled his body down onto the track level,” the officer said.

The man was not injured and walked to a gate where he was arrested.

“He’s a committed officer to the profession,” Holm, Jr. said.

In an April 5 disciplinary letter, the acting RTA police chief noted that Rivera, “Used an inappropriate technique” and, ‘Should have gone to track level to either render aid or detain the male.” He was given one paid day off with a stern warning.

“It’s not as easy-looking as it appears, there’s gonna be a lot of pressure on this man’s life for a long time… Fair or unfair,” said the union representative.

The letter goes on to say, “Any further infraction of a RTA work rule that would result in formal discipline will lead to your discharge.”

“It puts the officer on notice that he has to be damn-near perfect for a long time or he could be gone,” Holm, Jr. said.

Another RTA officer, Mark Sloboda, was fired for a Jan. 15 incident. Video shows him shoving and slamming a man to the ground at the West Boulevard-Cudell Rapid Station. The union meets with RTA officials about his case later this month.

“Nobody that puts on that uniform is trying to do the wrong thing,” said the union rep.

Rivera will also have to attend crisis intervention training, and attend a day of de-escalation and judgmental simulator training.  The man involved in the confrontation was arrested for disorderly conduct and criminal trespass, and had two outstanding arrest warrants.

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