FDLE investigating Fort Lauderdale officer’s use of force

FORT LAUDERDALE, FLA. (WSVN) - The Florida Department of Law Enforcement is investigating a Fort Lauderdale Police officer for his use of force, both during a recent protest and in past incidents.

Officer Steven Pohorence was captured on cellphone video shoving a protester to the ground during a Black Lives Matter demonstration on May 31. He has been suspended with pay while an investigation into the matter proceeded.

However, Fort Lauderdale Police Chief Rick Maglione and Mayor Dean Trantalis said on Tuesday said they have discovered hours of new video that have caused concern regarding his past incidents.

“I can assure you that when this investigation is concluded, both criminally and administratively, that if there is appropriate action to be taken, it will be taken, and it will be swift,” Maglione said. “We are constantly looking to improve our transparency. We are constantly looking to increase public trust.”

On Sept. 23, 2019, Pohorence could be seen confronting 23-year-old Gerald Rice, whose own mother called police wanting her son to leave her property.

According to the police report, Rice threatened his mother and officers, leading officers to take him into custody. However, during the arrest, Pohorence appears to have his knee on Rice’s neck.

In a video from April 18, 2020, Pohorence could be seen helping another officer subdue 27-year-old Brandon Long, who, according to the video, had refused to get off a Broward County bus and leave the station.

According to the police report, Long was in the officers’ face while trying to take him down to the ground.

As Pohorence and another officer try to arrest him, the video shows Long resisting. Then, the body camera video appears to show Pohorence placing his knee on his head for several seconds.

Investigators said legs can be used to subdue a person, but when the officers restrict airflow to the person’s head and neck, that requires further review.

“These videos are concerning, his response to resistance and the general manner in which those incidents were handled,” Maglione said. “The Florida Department of Law Enforcement was sent those video clips. They agreed that it warranted a further inquiry.”

In a third video from December 2018, a person appears to be rambling when he is hit by a Taser. Pohorence was with another officer on the scene, and he could be heard saying to the officer, “Do it again.”

The female officer then replied, “No, he’s good.”

Maglione said when there’s an internal affairs investigation, investigators will normally go through the police reports, but now, they said they will make a change in policy to review all body cameras when it comes to internal affairs investigations.

“This country has suffered a lot in the last few weeks,” Trantalis said. “I’m sorry to say that some of that suffering has reached our own community, but we’re going to put an end to it. Hopefully, we’ll be able to return to a level of normalcy in this world, as people are looking more and more at the police department for justice and for equality.”

Pohorence has used force, pulled his gun, used a Taser or has been involved in brawls dozens of times since joining the department in 2016, but he was never found to be in violation of department policy.

The attorney for the woman who was shoved by Pohorence during the protest said in a message, “While we appreciate the department’s current transparency, we will forever ask why it took so long to do the right thing. In this case, failing to act timely caused an innocent person to get hurt.”

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