A Florida police officer has been relieved of duty after he was filmed shoving a protester while she was kneeling on the ground.
The video was taken at a protest in Fort Lauderdale, Florida, on Sunday, according to WVSN. In the video, Officer Steven Pohorence is on foot trying to force the demonstrators to disperse. Surrounded by several people, he started to walk away, but a masked woman in a white tank top dropped to her knees in front of him. When he shoved her the crowd erupted.
After the push, Officer Krystle Smith is seen pointing and shouting at Pohorence as walked away.
Willie Loud, the witness who recorded the video, blamed Pohorence’s behavior for ruining the peaceful protest.
“When that happened, that kind of sparked the rage in everyone,” he recalled to WVSN. “That’s when everything took a turn for the worse.”
Fort Lauderdale Police Chief Rick Maglione disagrees but admitted his officer’s actions could have escalated existing tension.
“It could have. That’s a reasonable conclusion,” he said.
Pohorence has been a member of the force for four years and has more than a dozen misconduct accusations on his record. He has 71 use of force cases on his police file, according to Local 10 News. In most cases, 51 to be exact, he drew his service weapon. He was found to be in line with protocol in each case.
A recent evaluation stated Pohorence “is a positive, proactive, and motivated individual…however Ofc. Pohorence was sent to mandatory training to improve his interactions with the public with emphasis on public speaking.”
“He requires little if any supervision, and his self-motivation serves as a role model for others,” the report read.
Pohorence is under suspension while the Florida Department of Law Enforcement investigates the incident.
“That officer has been removed from any contact with the public,” Maglione said on Monday. “He is relieved from duty basically while this matter is investigated. It is going to be investigated first and foremost to see if any Florida statutes were violated. In other words, a criminal investigation is going to commence that the Florida Department of Law Enforcement is going to do. It’s not unusual in a case of police use of force.”
The chief praised Smith for stepping in after Poherence shoved the civilian.
“She did what you are supposed to do,” Maglione said. “When you see either adrenaline or emotion or some kind of interaction going south … that is our job to do, is intervene.”