And just like that, brutal officers in South Florida are being fired and charged with crimes for mistreating the public. Imagine that.
Last week, Miami-Dade State Attorney Katherine Fernandez Rundle filed four battery charges against a Miami Gardens police officer who pressed his knee on the neck of a woman outside a strip club and tased her in January.
The city’s mayor, Oliver Gilbert, told the Editorial Board Tuesday he learned of the incident three weeks ago and quickly pushed for the firing of the officer.
“We took immediate action and showed accountability,” said Gilbert, who added that 15 “unprofessional” officers have been fired in recent years.
Then on Tuesday, suspended Fort Lauderdale Officer Steven Pohorence, who was captured on video shoving a kneeling woman during a Black Lives Matter demonstration on May 31, was charged with misdemeanor battery, the Broward State Attorney announced.
So why did it take so long to hold accountable officers who abuse their power? Pohorence and too many other abusive officers are never punished, never sanctioned and put right back out on the street with badges and guns.
No doubt, the national outrage and public protests against police brutality following the infamous and widely excoriated death of George Floyd after a Minneapolis has prompted those in power to listen, finally.
Miami Gardens Police Officer Jordy Yanes Martel might have been yet another brutal officer shielded by anonymity had there not been a bystander’s video of him arresting Safiya Satchell, 33, outside Tootsie’s Cabaret in January. Yanes Martel even said that he was being attacked.
Apparently, he wasn’t. Instead, the video showed Satchell being thrown to the ground, restrained by the neck and tased twice in the stomach. Satchell was pregnant. How inhumane can policing get? Clearly, George Floyd’s death in Minneapolis showed us.
In Miami-Dade, the most encouraging development was the relative speed with which Fernández Rundle acted.
“We believe a review of the video reflects that Martel allegedly was the aggressor,” Fernández Rundle said during a news conference to announce the charges: four counts of battery and two counts of official misconduct.
Fernández Rundle is up for reelection, has a credible challenger and has been challenged by Black Lives Matter protesters and others for her record on police use-of-force cases. And rightly so.
The longtime Miami-Dade state attorney has been severely criticized for a track record of not prosecuting police officers accused of brutality, including fatal shootings. Protesters have even demonstrated outside the Criminal Justice Building, where her office is located. Fernández Rundle denies being soft on cops. And state law sets a high burden of proof to charge, much less convict, police officers in fatal shootings.
Still, Fernández Rundle has a powerful bully pulpit that she could use more forcefully.
Satchell’s arrest was especially egregious — and it stemmed from a dispute over a food tab. Surely the incident could have been prevented by officers practicing deescalation.
But that’s not what happened in the arrest. Yanes Martel lied about what transpired. But thankfully, there was a bystander video, taken by Satchell’s friend, to contradict the officers’ phony police report. The video did not back up his claim. Unfortunately, there is not always a video to catch cops like Yanes Martel and Pohorence in action. What are police chiefs doing about it?
An editorial from The Miami Herald.