In less than four years, Fort Lauderdale police officer Steven Pohorence drew his gun a total of 50 times, an average of more than once a month. And in at least two instances, he drew his gun on mothers with kids in their vehicles during traffic stops who were later released without charges.
However, it was not until he was caught on video last week shoving a sitting female protesters from the back of her head towards the ground that he found himself suspended.
And the only reason for that is because public opinion on policing has taken a sudden shift in the wake of the George Floyd murder where police brass are suddenly finding the courage to discipline officers. Citizens are also finding the courage to fight back against cops.
Seconds after Pohorence shoved the woman, he was pelted by plastic water bottles as other cops whisked him away.
As far as police abuse videos go, the video is mild but it shows he has no respect for the people he is supposed to serve and protect which makes him no different than thousands of cops across the country which is why the nationwide protests are entering their third week.
The most interesting part in the video is how another officer, Krystal Smith, appears to scold Pohorence after he assaults the woman.
According to the South Florida Sun Sentinel.
During his four years with the Fort Lauderdale Police Department, Pohorence has been involved in at least 14 violent arrests, brawls that ended with him or other officers punching or using stun guns on people who resisted, records from the department’s Internal Affairs office show.
Pohorence also has drawn his pistol at least 45 times while on duty, most often during traffic stops. On at least two occasions, he drew his service weapon on mothers with children in their vehicles who were later released without charges.
At least one person whom Pohorence arrested accused him of racially profiling them. Another accused the officer of false arrest and unnecessary use of force, but declined to produce pictures of their injuries. Internal Affairs found no wrongdoing in either case.
The confrontation between Pohorence and the kneeling demonstrator came at the tail end of what had been a peaceful protest, escalating an already tense situation.
In social video, Pohorence can be seen walking into the crowd, ordering protesters to disperse. But Pohorence walks too far and becomes encircled. As he turns to walk away, a kneeling woman wearing a white T-shirt and a face covering blocks his path.
Pohorence shoves her out of the way, pushing her to the ground. A fellow officer immediately berates Pohorence and separates him from the protesters, who begin to throw water bottles.
Soon after, witnesses say police responded with tear gas and rubber bullets and concussion grenades, dispersing the crowd. Later, as evening falls, officials state that protesters shattered windows and engaged in vandalism.
Local media have not said whether his suspension is paid or unpaid so for now, we will assume he is getting paid. As usual, the president of the local police union jumped to Pohorence’s defense, accusing the public of a “rush to judgment,” which apparently only cops are allowed to do.
According to the Miami Herald:
Fraternal Order of Police President Shane Calvey, in a four-minute video posted on Facebook, did not use Officer Steven Pohorence’s name but said the officer was the victim of “a rush to judgment.” Calvey also did not address Pohorence’s actions during a demonstration against police brutality, which were blasted as “offensive” earlier in the day by the city’s mayor, Dean Trantalis.
Calvey did criticize the mayor, however, saying his statement condemning the officer did “nothing but create a bigger division within our community.”
The union leader also called media reports about the number of times Pohorence has used force or drawn his weapon misleading, saying the officer had never been found to have violated department policies. The officer’s personnel file showed 79 use-of-force reviews in a 3 1/2 year career, which are standard procedure after officers report such incidents. Those include drawing his weapon 50 times. In each of those instances, an internal review determined the officer didn’t violate department policy. The file contained no public complaints against Pohorence.
“He’s never been investigated for use of force,” Calvey said.
Calvey made his statement sitting in front of the Thin Blue Line flag which is not only a violation of the U.S. Flag Code but also no different than gang colors. It is also viewed as a symbol of white supremacy, according to The Marshall Project which provided some background as how the symbol became an actual flag that has been raised in police departments across the country.
In 2014, a white college student named Andrew Jacob was watching protests of police killings of Eric Garner, Michael Brown and Tamir Rice. He had seen the image of the flag on patches and stickers, he told The Marshall Project, but not an actual flag. While in high school in West Bloomfield, Michigan, he had attended a memorial service for a police officer who had been killed on the job.
Now, Jacob is the president of Thin Blue Line USA, one of the largest online retailers devoted exclusively to sales of pro-police flags, T-shirts, neckwear and jewelry. “The flag has no association with racism, hatred, bigotry,” he said. “It’s a flag to show support for law enforcement—no politics involved.” The company officially disavowed its use in Charlottesville.
Jacob said the flag was not a direct reaction to the first Black Lives Matter protests—an idea suggested by a previous origin story in Harper’s—but he allows he may have first seen the thin blue line image after those protests spurred the circulation of pro-police imagery online. “That’s maybe why it came to my eyes,” he said.
As Jacob built the company, a “Blue Lives Matter” movement was growing in the wake of news stories of multiple officers shot to death in Baton Rouge, Louisiana; Brooklyn, New York; and Dallas. Meanwhile, Donald Trump, as a presidential candidate, called police “the force between civilization and total chaos.” Some states began passing laws to categorize physical attacks on law enforcement officers as hate crimes.
Police were not actually in greater danger than they had been before the Black Lives Matter movement. Ambush killings of police have actually declined more than 90 percent since 1970, even with the recent spikes, according to a study by Michael White, a professor of criminology at Arizona State University. White understands how the thin blue line flag has become a part of police culture, and that officers may view it as a sign of solidarity, but also worries about the message it sends to the public.
“It fosters this ‘us versus them’ mentality,” he said. “The police and community should work together, in order to produce safety. Each should respect the role of the other. If you’re looking at the community as a potential enemy, or a threat, that’s certainly going to hinder any positive relationship.”
At least one police department, the Middleton Police Department in Connecticut, chose to remove the flag in an attempt to smooth relations with the community. More departments will probably follow suit as they try to clean up their image.