US police defend 'knocking historian to ground'

Police in America tonight defended the actions of an officer who allegedly knocked a distinguished British historian to the ground after he crossed the road in the wrong place.

Police in America tonight defended the actions of an officer who allegedly knocked a distinguished British historian to the ground after he crossed the road in the wrong place.

Felipe Fernandez-Armesto, a self-described “ageing, mild-mannered” scholar, was held in a jail for eight hours after he inadvertently committed the offence of “jaywalking” in Atlanta, Georgia, last week.

He claimed he was the victim of “terrible, terrible violence” after he failed to realise the man telling him to stop was an officer and then hesitated to show his ID, instead asking the officer to show his.

The city’s police department launched an internal inquiry after the slight, bespectacled professor claimed Officer Kevin Leonpacher kicked his legs from under him, pinned him to the ground and then called several burly colleagues to help hold him there.

Tonight a spokesman said supervisors did not think excessive force had been used or that any rules had been broken.

“The officer asked the professor to comply several times but he refused,” Joe Cobb said.

“He tried to jerk away from the officer.

“The level of force was dictated by the professor, not by the officer.”

He said the incident ended the way it did because Prof. Fernandez-Armesto, who has been professor of global environmental history at Queen Mary, University of London, and a member of Oxford University’s modern history faculty, refused to show Officer Leonpacher his ID.

“This gentleman had his British driver's licence on him the entire time,” Mr Cobb said.

“All he had to do was provide that to the officer and the worst-case scenario is he would have been given a ticket.

“At this point we don’t see where any violation of policy or procedure occurred.

“We feel like the officer acted appropriately given the circumstances.”

Mr Cobb also disputed the academic’s claim that he could not tell Officer Leonpacher was a policeman because he was wearing a “rather louche” bomber jacket.

“The officer was in a standard-issue uniform with a black leather jacket with large reflective panels that said 'Atlanta Police',” the spokesman said.

“Anyone from a long distance away could clearly have identified him as a police officer, whether they were a visitor to this country or not.”

The don, 56, had commented after the incident that in Britain such a jacket was “maybe the sort of thing someone affecting a rather raffish image might wear, but not a policeman“.

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