Department fires officer after videotaped beating - WMC Action News 5 - Memphis, Tennessee

Reported by Andrew Douglas

Department fires officer after videotaped beating

Former Memphis Police Officer Bridges McRae Former Memphis Police Officer Bridges McRae

A Memphis Police Department spokesperson said late Wednesday afternoon that Officer Bridges McRae has been terminated from his employment with the department.

McRae was the officer at the center of controversy after he was caught on tape beating a trangendered prostitution suspect in the prisoner intake area at 201 Poplar.

The incident has received national attention and sparked outrage from many groups.

In the video, recorded by a surveillance camera last February, McRae was seen beating Duanna Johnson, a transgendered woman in custody on suspicion of prostitution.  Johnson was born a man but lives as a woman. She claims McRae called her derogatory names before assaulting her.

McRae also filed an assault charge against Johnson, saying she punched him several times.

Wednesday, Action News 5 examined McRae's personnel file.  Though he was never officially cited for any misconduct, McRae's personnel file contains a list of complaints, including racial slurs and a reference to the Aryan Nation.

The complaints against McRae date back to July of 2005.  Then, McRae said he found drugs on a man riding his bicycle on Elvis Presley and Dolan where McRae.  But the suspect claimed McRae threatened to donate his bicycle to charity and never tagged it to go into evidence.

Internal Affairs found the allegation of improper "Inventory and Processing Recovered Property"..."Unfounded."

The next incident happened four months later, when a mentally challenged man claimed McRae took him behind a liquor store on Cazassa, removed his handcuffs, and beat him up.  McRae claimed the man came out of his cuffs and officers had to fight him back into the cuffs.

The complaint of "Excessive Force" was "Not Sustained."

In the third incident, which took place a month later on East Brooks, McRae was accused of calling a man a "Black N*****" and they fought.  When the suspect's sister showed up, she claims she began taking video from her phone and was also arrested.

McRae got two "Personal Conduct" complaints and two "Excessive Force/Abuse" complaints, all "Not Sustained."

In June, 2006, McRae was accused of stealing cash from a drug suspect's car outside Jack Pirtle's Chicken on Poplar.  That complaint of Inventory and Processing Recovered Property was also "Not Sustained."

The fifth complaint happened on Poplar and North Angelus, where a woman claimed McRae stopped her in her car for violating registration, and told her she shouldn't be in that part of the community.  The woman claimed he made references to the Aryan Nation, and said she shouldn't be mixing races.  The "Personal Conduct" complaint was "Not Sustained."

Once again, McRae was never formally disciplined for any of those complaints, so they did not show up on his public record, only his personnel file.  McRae became a commissioned police officer four years ago, and his personnel record also showed many excellent reviews.

James Swain, a second officer who was seen on the tape holding Johnson down, was a probationary officer at the time and was immediately fired following the incident.

"He used the force that he did. He felt it was necessary," Memphis Police Association president J.D. Sewell said.
 
Action News 5 cameras caught Memphis Police Association president J-D Sewell walking with Bridges McRae into 201 Poplar minutes before his administrative hearing.

He actually used the video and used a narration in it explaining point by point.

Sewell said McRae's attorney told him to keep quiet because of possible criminal charges.

Sewell said in the video McRae is trying to get Johnson to go through the booking process but Sewell said Johnson, who had a history of felonies under the name Duannel Johnson, refused.

"The officer was clearly trying to get Mr. Johnson out of the chair to get him fingerprinted. And the reaction from Mr. Johnson caused the action of Mr. Johnson," Sewell said.     
 
Sewell said there were no slurs used whatsoever.

"All he kept calling him was Duane. Didn't call him Duanna. Called him Duane and didn't call him any other derogatory names as Mr. Johnson has refered to," Sewell said.

Bridges McRae is expected to appeal his firing to the civil service board.

No word yet on any criminal charges in this case.


Click here to e-mail Andrew Douglas.

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