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Ferguson Hired Officer With History Of Allegedly Hitting Children

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He resigned from St. Louis city police under a cloud of suspicion. Missouri tried to make sure he couldn't walk the beat. But one officer with a history of allegations of hitting children found a willing employer in the Ferguson Police Department.

The saga of Eddie Boyd III underlines the troubles surrounding Ferguson's tiny police force, which has been engulfed in controversy ever since one of its officers shot 18-year-old Michael Brown on Aug. 9.

In a city where the killing of an unarmed black teenager by a white cop has revealed profound racial tensions, Boyd's story represents an anomaly: he is one of just three African-American police officers in a department of 53.

But that doesn't mean he's an exception in other ways. Citing Boyd and other examples, critics claim that Ferguson and the St. Louis area in general have serious problems with police accountability.

"Americans love a second chance," said Matthew Devoti, a civil rights lawyer who represented one teen in a failed lawsuit against Boyd. "The question, I guess, is 'When is enough, enough?'"

In the city of St. Louis, the complaints against Boyd started rolling in nearly a decade ago, not long after he left the police academy. The St. Louis Metropolitan Police Department's internal affairs division investigated two allegations of physical abuse against children in 2004 and 2005 but did not sustain them, meaning that the investigation did not reveal sufficient evidence to support the allegations.

Internal affairs did sustain the third serious complaint against Boyd, however. In April 2006, Boyd got into an argument with 12-year-old Jerica Thornton while following the girl and her brother home from school, according to a judge's summary of the investigation.

After a verbal altercation turned physical, Boyd tackled the brother to the ground. When Jerica came to his aid, Boyd struck her in the head with his gun.

Boyd later claimed that he had pistol-whipped the girl "accidentally." Internal affairs disagreed, recommending that Boyd be dropped from the department's rolls.

But instead of firing him, in November 2006, the St. Louis police demoted Boyd to the status of a probationary police officer. They also apparently failed to give him additional supervision -- a mistake that would cost them.

The trouble started in April 2007, when a fight erupted outside Sumner High School and freshman Christopher Dixon took off running. He wasn't a part of the fight, but he was afraid he would be arrested anyway, according to his testimony in a deposition.

Responding to a call, Boyd came upon Dixon leaving the scene. He said in a deposition that he tried to detain Dixon, but he slipped and “inadvertently” hit the boy in the face with his handcuffs.

Dixon offered a different version of events. He claimed that as he left the scene, Boyd drove up in his car and pointed his gun. "Freeze, if you move, I’ll shoot," he shouted, according to Dixon. Boyd then left the car and suddenly whipped his gun across Dixon's nose and left eye.

"I moved my hand from my face," Dixon said. "I just saw blood just pouring out of my face."

When backup came, he overheard two other officers talking about Boyd as though the incident had "happened before or something."

"They just kept saying, 'Boyd again?'" Dixon said.

Doctor glued Dixon's nose back together and gave him stitches. Boyd resigned from the force.

"Just didn't feel like dealing with the red tape and bureaucracy," he said in the deposition, when asked why he resigned.

The St. Louis police, for their part, did not seem sad to see Boyd go. They refused to pay for his defense in Dixon's ensuing lawsuit.

Meanwhile, in January 2008, the state's public safety department began the lengthy process of petitioning to have Boyd's police officer license revoked, citing both the Dixon and the Thornton cases. An administrative judge ruled against Boyd in October 2009.

In 2010, the St. Louis city police -- also a defendant in Dixon's lawsuit -- settled with the teen for $35,000. Dixon had sued them for allegedly failing to supervise Boyd despite his probationary status.

Boyd, on the other hand, hashed it out with Dixon in court. The two-day trial in July 2010 hinged on whether Boyd used too much force and an exchange during the teenager's deposition about whether Boyd had "intended" to hit him. Dixon said in the deposition that he didn't know if Boyd had intended to strike him in the face, but in a later affidavit he said that he believed that Boyd intended to strike him somewhere. The vagueness in the first statement was enough to lead to Boyd's acquittal.

Vindicated by the jury, Boyd succeeded in stopping the state's effort to revoke his license in August 2010. He also sued the St. Louis police for the roughly $65,000 in legal costs he had racked up. The case was settled out of court.

After leaving the St. Louis city police in 2007, Boyd worked as an officer for the small suburb of St. Ann. Sometime between July 2009 and December 2010, he became an officer in Ferguson.

Ferguson Police spokesman Tim Zoll declined to comment on Boyd's hiring, calling it "an internal matter."

Despite the lawsuit, Ferguson may have had a simple motivation in hiring Boyd. Speaking generally, St. Louis University law professor Roger Goldman said departments save money on training by hiring officers who are already licensed.

"Why are you willing to overlook that previous misconduct?" he asked. "You might not have that much money."

Goldman said this happens in "case after case," particularly in "an area like St. Louis, where you've got something like 55 departments."

"It's called the ‘muni shuffle,’" he said.

If Ferguson was hoping to save money on Boyd's training, it might wind up spending more in the end. The city is currently defending another lawsuit against Boyd.

It began with a wild car chase in January 2011. Eugene McAllister III, 16, was riding in a stolen Dodge Stratus. From the back seat of the speeding car, he shot off at least one round at the cops from a Smith and Wesson revolver. The chase ended when the car's tires were damaged.

In a handwritten complaint that he filed in March on his own behalf in federal court, McAllister alleges that Boyd, by then a Ferguson officer, beat him.

McAllister claims that after the car was stopped, officers converged on the car, smashed in its windows, and attacked him.

In striking resemblance to eyewitness accounts of the Michael Brown shooting, McAllister says that he raised his hands above his head and repeatedly shouted "I give up!"

Boyd then allegedly beat McAllister "over and over."

Attorney Peter Dunne, who is representing Boyd on behalf of Ferguson, told HuffPost that Boyd has had "zero" disciplinary problems since joining the Ferguson police force. Boyd was the recipient of an award in 2012 for his actions in a separate pursuit and shooting.

"We've denied the allegations that have been brought against him and we're looking forward to the matter being exonerated when he's finally tried," Dunne said.

Unlike Brown, McAllister survived his encounter with a Ferguson police officer. He is currently serving a 20-year sentence for the incident at the South Central Correctional Center in Licking, Missouri.