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Cleaning house in Tampa

Published Oct. 16, 2005

Steve K. McCammond shouldn't be wearing a police uniform. If the Tampa Police Department's internal affairs report is to believed, and the evidence seems overwhelming, then the department has a bad officer on its hands. According to the report, McCammond, unprovoked, sprayed Mace in the face of a handcuffed suspect and then later beat and kicked him as he lay on the ground. McCammond's rookie partner, Johnny Campbell, did not intervene, even though he said he felt McCammond's actions were "basically wrong." George Tyrone Daniels, the victim, apparently brought on McCammond's wrath by walking through a Tampa housing project on his way to his aunt's home. He was charged with trespassing and resisting arrest with violence.

The internal affairs report is remarkable for its clarity. There are no witnesses who support McCammond and Campbell's version of the events. Several witnesses, however, support Daniels' claims. Polygraph tests indicated McCammond and Campbell repeatedly lied to police investigators when questioned about the arrest. Daniels, on the other hand, passed his polygraph.

That the police department's internal affairs bureau upheld Daniels' complaint is commendable and sends the right message to the community: Abuse of authority won't be condoned. That message is especially important in Tampa, where police officers historically have been quick to use undue force and where blacks too often have been the victims. Daniels is black.

It's now up to Tampa Police Chief Austin McLane to determine the appropriate discipline for McCammond and Campbell. McLane says that regardless of race, his department takes all allegations of misconduct on the part of officers extremely seriously. The department, he says, is going to clean its own house.

Those are strong words. If he means them, he has only one choice when it comes to McCammond. Fire him.