Fort Lauderdale

Fort Lauderdale Police Changes How Body Camera Videos Are Reviewed

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It's a police body camera video that attorney Christina Currie discovered and no one inside of the Fort Lauderdale police department had reviewed until recently.

The video shows what happened in April when a man, who was taken off a bus, was arrested. 

The police report says Officer Steven Pohorence and another officer tried to take the man into custody, but he was struggling with them. The body camera video shows Pohorence putting his knee on the man’s neck. 

Currie also found this wasn’t the only body camera video internal affairs had not reviewed of use of force incidents involving Pohorence.

Gerald Rice, another man, says the officer tossed him to the ground and put his knee on his neck during an encounter in 2019.

“He beat me. He put his knee in my neck. He loved to put his knee in your neck like right here. He constantly— I had long hair at the time— I had to cut my hair because he pulled some of it out by him yanking. So, he’s bashing my head against the ground repeatedly with his knee in my neck,” Rice said.  

Rice was also arrested for trespassing. The report says he resisted and refused to obey commands.   

Currie told us she started looking into Pohorence’s record after she watched on TV a video of the officer pushing a protester. She then filed a public records request. 

“The police department found them when they were processing my public records request,” she said referring to the body camera videos.

Currie, who chairs the Fort Lauderdale citizens panel that examines police internal affairs findings, was not acting in that capacity when she found that when Fort Lauderdale officers self-report they had to use force because of resistance, internal affairs investigators look at the paperwork but not the body camera video of the incident.

“I think that it is very upsetting that the police department had the body camera footage and they made a decision on the use of force in those cases without ever looking at the footage. It shouldn’t have taken a public records request months later to know there was something questionable about the footage,” Currie said.

The Fort Lauderdale Police chief acted quickly when the issue was brought to his attention. 

“These videos are concerning his response to resistance and the general manner in which those incidents were handled,” Chief Rick Maglione said. 

The officers' body cams were already reviewed when excessive force complaints were filed by the public. But under the new policy, the body cams will also be examined when an officer self reports the use of force due to resistance. In addition, a sergeant is being assigned to aid in the review of body cams and reports.

The Florida Department of Law Enforcement is investigating Pohorence while he remains on administrative leave. 

The police union representing the officer says he deserves due process and asked not to jump to conclusions based on a few frames of video.

The change in the body camera policy is the kind of thing protesters and community leaders are calling for when it comes to policing reforms.

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