GREEN BAY – A Green Bay police officer has been cleared of any wrongdoing after an arrest that blew up on social media.
“Officer Derek Wicklund’s use of force was justifiable and objectively reasonable,” said Green Bay Police Chief Tom Molitor.
At a news conference Tuesday morning, the department explained how it reached its findings by showing four videos of the incident and explaining how police officers are trained to use force.
Officer Wicklund arrested Joshua Wenzel on April 19 on Washington St. in Green Bay. A video of the arrest was posted to the internet and sparked a debate about appropriate use of force.
In the video, you can see Wicklund push Wenzel up against a squad car before taking him down to the ground.
Three months later, and after an internal investigation, Green Bay Police released three new videos of the incident. Lt. Chad Ramos said the investigation was very thorough.
“I challenge anyone to look at that and ask for a different angle we could have taken,” said Ramos.
Ramos said the new videos show that Officer Wicklund’s arrest of Wenzel was appropriate.
One of the videos is from the dashboard of a police car. Ramos slowed down the video and explained why Wicklund hit Wenzel.
“This is when he’s trying to bring him down to the ground,” said Ramos. “Watch the hands of Mr. Wenzel. First strike, open hand, palm. He said it was blocked. That’s what Officer Wicklund said. Watch his hands. Even important, even after the strike, he was struck to the face. Watch this hand, grabbing, he’s holding, he’s latched onto that hand.”
Ramos says the video gave police a perspective the public didn’t have. He also says Officer Wicklund told Wenzel to put his hands behind his back.
“It’s not easy to pick up on here, but when you interview Officer Wicklund, he says, look, it was loud there, but I said this clearly,” said Ramos.
Another new video shows what led up to the the incident. Police arrested a man after he left a bar with a drink.
In the video you can see the man walking on the sidewalk and taking a drink. A crowd gathered and some people were swearing at police. Authorities say that included Wenzel.
“Their behavior is what created a disturbance and compromised the safety of officers and the public,” said Ramos. “That is the focus of this incident, not the officer’s use of force.”
Wenzel was arrested for disorderly conduct and resisting arrest. The case is still open in municipal court.
The Wisconsin Department of Justice also reviewed the incident and agreed with the decision to clear Wicklund.
Ramos says Wicklund will return to regular patrol duty soon.
Ramos says if something like this happens again, it could be handled in the exact same way. He says an arrest can be conducted in many different ways, depending on an officer’s skill set.
Ramos discussed the training for officers. The preferred method is to gain subject compliance voluntarily and verbally. However, manuals include the direction that physical force may be required, he said.
Ramos also explained how actions are reviewed. It’s from the perspective of the officer at the time of the incident. There are several standards to determine if use of force of reasonable.
Earlier this year, Ramos testified in Brown County Court that the Green Bay Police Department investigates between 120 and 200 use of force cases a year. In the last year, Ramos said none were found to be excessive.