Clarksville, Indiana police investigating officer accused of using excessive force

CLARKSVILLE — A Clarksville police officer is on paid administrative leaving pending an internal investigation into an allegation that he used excessive force against a suspect during a Sunday morning pursuit.

The investigation was initiated by the Clarksville Police Department regarding Sgt. Jason Tackett, a 12-year-veteran of the department, following the incident.

According to a police report, officers were following a vehicle believed to be stolen and attempted to make a stop at Brown’s Station Way in Clarksville around 3:30 a.m.

At the sign of police lights, the car allegedly sped off, going 80 mph in a 45-mph zone and headed toward New Albany, eventually going 70 to 80 mph down Spring Street. The car then continued to the Portland neighborhood in Louisville, where it crashed in an alley.

The driver, later identified as 37-year-old Raymond M. Bard, aka Raymond M. Smithers, fled on foot. Officers, including those from the Louisville Metro Police Department, trailed Bard through a fence and backyard, eventually deploying a Taser. Bard was secured by Tackett and another officer and police confiscated a large white bag allegedly containing narcotics.

The suspect reportedly tried to flee again before slipping on the ice; officers deployed the Taser a second time and Bard was again secured.

According to a statement issued by Clarksville Police Chief Mark Palmer, police body camera footage shows Tackett, the Clarksville officer, strike the suspect in the head with his arm. The News and Tribune has reviewed the footage, which shows an officer striking the suspect once in the head while the suspect was handcuffed and on the ground.

“The Clarksville Police Department will not tolerate any form of excessive force,” Palmer said in the statement. “We have initiated an internal investigation into these actions and, if the charges are sustained, the officer will be subject to discipline or termination.”

Palmer also stated the department’s desire to be transparent while not impeding an investigation.

“I would ask that the public understand that we will continue to make every effort to keep the good citizens of our community safe while holding our officers to the highest standards.”

Detective Nathan Walls said it is protocol for the department to review all situations that are deemed “critical” things out of the ordinary like a police chase or use of a Taser, for instance.

“We look at video of all critical incidents and if we see something we believe needs to be looked at further, then that goes before the chief and he makes a decision as to whether or not he thinks it needs to be looked at internally,” Walls said.

“Obviously when we watched the video and saw officer Tackett strike [the suspect], that calls for the chief to ask for an investigation.”

The footage from the arresting officer was the first to be released, but Walls said footage from other officers is being reviewed and will be released when it is cleared.

“We wanted to do the most detailed one that gave the best perspective, we wanted to get it cleared first and get it out right away,” he said of the footage released Thursday.

Tackett’s personnel file, obtained through the Clarksville Police Department, does not contain any prior disciplinary action; it does contain several commendation letters for his service.

He was promoted to corporal in 2014 and sergeant in 2016.

If the charges are sustained, Tackett may be placed in unpaid administrative leave until the police commissioners can hear the case.

Louisville Metro Police arrested Bard on a warrant he had out of Floyd County and were holding him to be transported to Clark County for Sunday’s incident.

Bard faces preliminary charges of dealing in methamphetamine, a level 3 felony; dealing in a narcotic drug (heroin), a level 4 felony; dealing in cocaine, a level 4 felony; possession of methamphetamine, a level 5 felony; possession of a narcotic (heroin), a level 6 felony; possession of cocaine, a level 6 felony; five counts of possession of a controlled substance, level 6 felonies; resisting law enforcement with a vehicle, a level 6 felony; escape, a level 5 felony; resisting law enforcement, a class A misdemeanor and reckless driving, a class B misdemeanor.

Formal charges had not yet been filed in Clark County as of press time.