Fort Lauderdale

Videos Show Previous Use of Force Incidents by Officer Accused of Shoving Protester

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Fort Lauderdale police released seven videos on Tuesday of previous uses of force involving an officer who was suspended for shoving a protester last month.

In a news conference, Fort Lauderdale Police Chief Rick Maglione said he found two of those videos concerning. They showed incidents involving Steven Pohorence since he joined the department in 2016.

"If it is determined that Officer Pohorence violates any policies, appropriate action will be taken," Maglione said. "It will be swift and it will address any potential violations adequately."

Maglione also announced a new department policy, effective Tuesday, that all body worn camera footage will be reviewed when an officer reports he used force.

Tamara Lakes remembers seeing her son Gerald Rice Jr. pinned down with his face on the ground outside her home on September 23. Poherence's knee was on the back of his head and neck.

“He did use force, like hard force,” Lakes told NBC 6.

Lakes says she called the police for help with her son, who she says is bipolar and was having an episode.

“I just try to get him calmed down sometimes that’s why I called,” Lakes said. “For help, not for abuse.”

Another video from April shows the officer responding to a trespassing call on a bus. At one point, Poherence again uses his knee on a man’s neck.

“There is zero tolerance for improper behavior in this department,” said Mayor Dean Trantalis. “Zero tolerance for improper behavior in this community.”

When Lakes saw the now viral video of the incident at the protest, she recognized the officer right away.

“He’s doing it to multiple people,” Lakes said. “That’s not how police should act. You don’t always have to use that force.”

Shane Calvey, the president of Fort Lauderdale's Fraternal Order of Police, said in a statement in part, "(The) FOP fully scanned a complete and thorough investigation. Officer Pohorence is entitled to his due process. Which every civilian is entitled to also. We are asking that people refrain from a rush to judgement based on a small piece of video or political views or biases."

Pohorence was suspended back in May 31 when video of him shoving a protester at a Black Lives Matter demonstration surfaced.

In the video, Pohorence can be seen yelling and approaching protesters, ordering them to get back. The demonstrators then surround the officer and kneel with their hands up, before Pohorence shoves a kneeling woman to the ground.

According to personnel files obtained by NBC 6, Pohorence has had over 70 reports of use of force – many involving pulling a gun, but none led to any findings that he violated department policy. 

So far this year, Pohorence has been involved in over a dozen use of force incidents. The department did not identify violations of the department's policy in any of them. He has been involved in at least two crashes involving civilians, but in both of them, it was determined he was not at fault.

His department evaluations in 2019, 2018 and 2017 were all "above satisfactory." 

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