Police Abuse

Gwinnett County Police Fire Two Officers a Day After They're Caught on Video Brutalizing a Handcuffed Man


cellphone video

The Gwinnett County Police Department (GCPD) announced it had fired Officers Robert McDonald and Michael Bongiovanni, both of whom were involved in assaulting Demetrius Hollins in an incident caught on video. The terminations come just a day after the incident occurred, in large part because the department was not hamstrung by legal privileges of public employees that prevent such timely terminations in many other jurisdictions.

Georgia does not have a "law enforcement officers bill of rights," which makes it extremely difficult to fire a police officer in those states that have such laws, and neither are public employees in Georgia granted collective bargaining privileges, which enable police unions to negotiate just the kinds of contracts that unduly protect bad actors.

Nevertheless, the two cops have some sort of appeals process, as a GCPD public information office explained to Reason. She said she's requested documents pertaining to the appeals process and would share the information with us when she gets it. She did not respond by the end of the business day today, but we'll post an update with that information if we get it.

The incident also highlights the importance of laws protecting people's rights to record police officers in public. McDonald was caught on cellphone video by a driver stomping Hollins in the head after the man had already been handcuffed—GCPD fired him less than 24 hours later.

Subsequently, the department announced it was firing McDonald's supervisor, Sergeant Michael Bongiovanni, after it said police discovered a second video taken from a different angle. "The video was contrary to what was reported by Michael Bongiovanni," the department said in a statement. "The video was filmed by a witness and shows the man getting out of the car with both hands up. As he stands with his hands up, Michael Bongiovanni strikes the man in the face."

Bongiovanni punched Hollins after Hollins got out of his car. McDonald headstomped Hollins later while he man was handcuffed.

"The revelations uncovered in this entire investigation are shocking," the statement continued. "We are fortunate that this second video was found and we were able to move swiftly to terminate a supervisor who lied and stepped outside of his training and state law."

The department also said they had launched a criminal investigation into McDonald's actions and subsequently a second one on Bongiovanni's actions. The Georgia Bureau of Investigation is not involved.

"The actions by this former officer do not represent the officers of this department who dedicate their lives to serving the community on a daily basis," the department statement about McDonald's termination read.

"We acknowledge that the actions of these two officers have implications that will be felt for some time," the department said in its statement. "However, we also believe that our decisive action in terminating both officers speaks volumes about what is expected of each officer that wears a Gwinnett County Police badge."

Bongiovanni was hired in 1998, while McDonald was hired in 2013.

Watch Bongiovanni punch Hollins, then McDonald stomp the handcuffed Hollins, below, via Photography Is Not a Crime: