SANTA ANA (CBSLA) — A Garden Grove police officer Wednesday was charged with threatening and battering homeless people while on duty, including hitting a man in the back of his head and pulling his hair while the man was handcuffed, the Orange County District Attorney’s Office said.
Garden Grove Officer Kevin Dinh has been charged with two misdemeanor counts of unlawful beating by a police officer, two misdemeanor courts of simple battery and four misdemeanor counts of attempted criminal threats.
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According to prosecutors, the 12-year veteran of the Garden Grove Police Department, was dispatched with another officer last September to a restaurant for reports of homeless individuals refusing the leave the front of a business. He then allegedly struck one of the men in the back of his head while holding his hands above his head and then twisting the man’s hands while holding them behind his back. He is also accused of threatening to knock the man’s teeth out if he saw him again.
Prosecutors said the second incident happened last October when Dinh and two other officers were dispatched to an Orange County Transit Authority bus stop to investigate a package theft from a nearby home. During this encounter, Dinh is accused of striking a handcuffed man’s head and grabbing his hair and pulling while saying something to him. The man was eventually released.
One of the officers present during the incident reported Dinh’s alleged actions to a supervisor, according to the department.
“The Garden Grove Police Department conducted an intensive criminal investigation and found two separate incidents involving Officer Dinh, where inappropriate use of force occurred,” the department said in a statement. “The findings were submitted to the Orange County District Attorney’s Office for their review and based on the investigation conducted by the Garden Grove Police Department, criminal charges were filed.”
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Both of the incidents were captured on body-worn cameras, the D.A.’s office said.
“The public has the expectation that its law enforcement officers treat everyone with dignity and respect,” District Attorney Todd Spitzer said in a statement. “Abusing the color of authority to exert unlawful force or to attempt to instill fear in detained suspects is not how the overwhelming majority of police officers conduct themselves, and when officers cross the line into criminal behavior, they will be held accountable.”
If convicted as charged, Dinh faces a maximum sentence of four years in the Orange County Jail. He has been placed on administrative leave pending the outcome of an internal investigation, Garden Grove PD said in a statement.
Garden Grove PD said it believed the two incidents to be isolated, but asked that any other potential victims to contact the department’s Detective Bureau at (714) 741-5800.
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“We will not tolerate this behavior on any members of our community,” Garden Grove Police Chief Tom DaRe said. “Everyone will be treated with dignity and respect.”