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Review of Goodyear officer who punched woman finds it was justified

Posted at 10:41 PM, Oct 19, 2018
and last updated 2018-10-20 01:41:34-04

A review by an outside agency has found that a Goodyear police officer filmed punching a woman during a traffic stop was justified in his use of force.

On September 6th, Renee Armenta was pulled over near Dysart and Van Buren just before noon after an officer discovered she was driving while on a suspended license and making an illegal U-turn.

She was asked to get out of the car and was told she was under arrest.

Video taken by a bystander shows the officer grab Armenta by the arm and punch her with his right hand.

The officer, Matthew Ross, said he saw Armenta reach behind her back--possibly for a weapon--a move that forced him to protect himself from possible attack.

The Surprise Police Department reviewed Officer Ross' actions, finding that he "acted appropriately and within department policy and procedure."

The decision did not come as a surprise to Armenta's attorney, Anthony Ramirez.

"Not because I think it’s an appropriate finding, but it’s disappointing in that it’s very consistent and it happens over and over and over,” he said.

Ramirez says having other police departments decide whether a law enforcement officer's use of force is justified or not, may "call into question the whole process."

“It’s a small law enforcement community," said Ramirez. "In some circumstances, these officers were very close with one another, they know each other.”

That view is not universally shared. Lon Bartel, who spent decades as a police officer in Peoria and now works as a use of force consultant to law enforcement agencies, says if anything, most are more critical.

"Typically, officers are actually harder on their own," said Bartel. "We know the rules, we know what functions, we know what doesn’t, and we tend to be very very hard, we tend to second-guess each other, and sometimes to a point where it’s not fair. So to say that they’re just going to give them a pass, I haven’t seen that, and I disagree with that.”

Armenta's attorney mentioned a separate case involving a use of force investigation of a Mesa police officer showed similar results, after being handed to Scottsdale police for an outside investigation. That review, too, said that officers' actions were justified. That investigation, however, was sent to the FBI for further review, even after Scottdale police made their recommendation.