A Sunrise Police sergeant is under investigation after body camera footage showed him putting his hand on another officer's throat.
Sgt. Christopher Pullease has been relieved of supervisory responsibilities and is the subject of an internal affairs investigation following the Nov. 19 incident, Sunrise Police Chief Anthony Rosa said in a statement Friday.
Pullease had responded to a scene after a suspect in a violent felony had been arrested and officers were trying to put him in the backseat of a patrol car, Rosa said.
The suspect was resisting officers, but after he'd been put into the patrol car, Pullease approached and got into a verbal altercation with the suspect, which Rosa called "inappropriate and unprofessional."
Rosa said Pullease also escalated the situation by holding his can of pepper spray, even though he didn't use it.
"This supervisor escalated the encounter instead of de-escalating an emotionally charged situation," Rosa said in his statement. "It is our practice at the Sunrise Police Department to do everything we can to de-escalate tense incidents and bring calm to chaos."
In an effort to de-escalate the situation, another officer approached Pullease from behind and grabbed him by his duty belt and pulled him away, Rosa said.
Police body camera footage showed Pullease turning around while back pedaling then momentarily placing his hand at the throat of the officer while pushing the officer backwards.
The faces of all of the officers except Pullease are blurred in the video, and the audio is muted.
Rosa praised the officer who pulled Pullease away in his statement.
"I am very proud of the officer involved in this incident and believe that the actions taken were definitive and demonstrative of good leadership during a tense situation," Rosa said. "The men and women of the Sunrise Police Department are expected to de-escalate emotionally charged situations and intervene immediately if it appears that a fellow officer is losing control of themselves or displaying inappropriate conduct while engaged with the public."
Rosa said after he learned of the incident, Pullease was immediately relieved of his supervisory responsibilities, and has no contact or supervision over subordinate personnel.
Pullease has been with the Florida police department for 21 years, while the female officer who pulled him away has been there for two years.
"She’s from what I would call the new era of law enforcement training where interpersonal skills and de-escalation techniques are paramount," said law enforcement expert Michael D’Angelo of Secure Direction Consulting.
D’Angelo watched the video and said the young officer’s actions show how policing should take place in 2022.
"When we see a female police officer that’s finally doing the right thing — the thing we have been trying to retrain law enforcement throughout the country to do—and that is to intervene when you see excessive use of force," D'Angelo said. "So she does the right thing and I think the sergeant's response to that, even if not more or just as appalling as to the handcuffed prisoner. She was doing the right thing. That’s how academies are taught now. That’s how academies are training."
The internal affairs investigation is active and ongoing.
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