Mental health counselor talks about suspension of deputy for allegedly hitting patient

An Osceola County deputy has been suspended with pay after striking a mental health patient, according to Osceola County Sheriff Marcos Lopez.

Deputies said the suspect was handcuffed to a hospital bed because had had just been arrested for violating a domestic violence injunction. 
Body camera video shows a shouting match with the patient and escalates from there.

Investigators said you can see the patient slap the deputy’s wrist and that deputy responds by hitting the suspect.  Another deputy tells them to stop.

"What’s troubling to me is that I see a deputy who’s going to the level of an individual who’s having a mental health crisis," said Sheriff Lopez describing the actions of Deputy Dirio Sinclair. "It's all about accountability."

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Dr. Jeff Barnes is a mental health counselor who also works with police officers in Clermont and Windermere.

"You feel for the person there, but then again you have an officer that’s trying to do his job and protect himself," he explained. "I’ve seen patients punch police officers and you gotta just hold them down and get them cuffed till the situation is under control."

Barnes said officers receive sensitivity training to deal with situations like this one.

"The person was very agitated. I think it’s best, try to talk them down and that’s what most officers do."

Sheriff Lopez said he would like to start a mental health division if they can get funding approved. He said would like to get mental health counselors for his staff as well.

"We’re going to have mental health counselors, social work type employees and deputies trained in mental health recognition."

Sheriff Lopez said Sinclair had no prior complaints. 

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