Police line do not cross
File photo: US police tape Reuters

A police officer in Florida has been arrested after a colleague reported that he had repeatedly punched a handcuffed teenage suspect in the face on Saturday (10 June).

Jacksonville Sheriff's Office announced the arrest of Officer Timothy James in a press conference, marking the second such arrest in less than a month, and the seventh this year.

Undersheriff Pat Ivey said that the incident came about after a patrol sergeant was flagged down at around 4am EST/9am BST by a trainee corrections officer who said he had information about two suspects wanted in another jurisdiction.

"As the sergeant was standing there, a truck pulled up and he says 'as a matter of fact I think that's them right there," Ivey said, recounting the moments that led up to the officer's arrest. Ivey said that when the sergeant called for back-up, Officer James arrived.

James's car had a cage for transporting suspects so when the officers had ascertained that the two were wanted, they were placed in the back, Ivey continued. The suspects are 17 and 18-years-old and reportedly brothers.

After walking away, the sergeant noticed something going on in the other car and headed back, the Sheriff's Office said. One of the suspects said that James had hit them, but when the sergeant shone his torch into the car, he could not see any signs of injury. James then showed the sergeant his hands and said he did not hit anyone.

Ivey said the sergeant then returned to his car to continue verifying the warrant, but looked up and saw "a commotion". The sergeant allegedly saw James remove the 17-year-old from the car and "take him to the ground", Ivey said, adding that that became "a struggle".

The 18-year-old then allegedly got out of the car and got on top of James before James was able to bring him to the ground as well.

While waiting for a second car to come and separate the two suspects, Ivey said that James put the 17-year-old in the back of his car before getting into the backseat with the suspect and striking him "multiple times in the face with a closed fist." The suspect was still handcuffed at the time, Ivey said.

The sergeant and the corrections officer both witnessed the incident, Ivey added. James is being charged with one count of battery.

Ivey said that James did not give a statement but he "claims the individual spit at him".