Video raises questions about use of force by Plattsburgh police

PLATTSBURGH, N.Y. (WCAX) A video posted to Facebook about a 2017 altercation inside the Plattsburgh Police Department has the community questioning the police and their use of force.

Our Kelly O'Brien spoke to the man in the video and the police chief about what exactly is going on there.

The man in the video, Zachary Butchino, was arrested for assault. He says he didn't do it. Police say witnesses ID'd him.

What has the public concerned is what happened while he was behind bars. We are still waiting to receive the raw video from police-- it's coming-- the video we currently have was edited by Butchino.

"When they put me in the holding cell, I kind of lost it. I couldn't handle it," Butchino said.

Butchino says he has PTSD and severe anxiety.

While drunk and in police custody for an assault arrest in August 2017, Butchino says he used his clothing to try to kill himself in the police holding cell.

Plattsburgh Police Chief Levi Ritter says there was a physical altercation between Butchino and an officer while moving cells that was not shown in the edited video Butchino posted on Facebook.

"There are a lot of portions of the video that aren't shown that are justified use of force. I would say that not all of it is," Ritter said.

The edited video shows Butchino with a bloody nose and face after the altercation involving a handful of officers in the cell. Ritter says they were attempting to get his clothes off and retrieve an officer's name badge Butchino had in his possession that he could have used to harm himself.

"I kept asking to go to the hospital but they kept refusing," Butchino said.

"I think part of it was because he had physically fought with the officers, he would not have been safe for him to be treated by medical personnel, I believe that's part of it," the chief said.

Chief Ritter was Sgt. Ritter at the time and working the night shift. He says he was not at the precinct at the time.

"It's things like this that I have strived to make progress in within our department because this is some of the history of our department. This is stuff that doesn't belong in our department," Ritter said.

Plattsburgh Mayor Colin Read says he has not watched the video and for legal reasons won't until he needs too. He says he understands why the public is upset and that's why it's important the city is updating its use-of-force policy.

"More reviews, more work and more reforms," said Read, D-Plattsburgh.

Butchino says he's bringing this to light because he thinks it could have been handled better and he wants to see officers have more mental health crisis training.

Ritter agreed, saying mental health crisis and de-escalation training are important and have been defined in the new use-of-force policy passed last week.

Chief Ritter couldn't give specifics but said there was an internal investigation done and that all officers involved are still employed at the city police department.

Mayor Read says the city will hold an independent investigation.