'Blackout Hate Rally' calls for more police accountability

'We all came together in solidarity to show that Orlando is no place for hate'

ORLANDO, Fla. – At an Orlando city commission meeting Monday, more than a dozen community members told commissioners they're going to Tallahassee to try and change state law that currently limits the commission and the Citizens Review Board's ability to disciple officers.

This comes hours after those community members held a rally and press conference ahead of Monday's commission meeting.

Protesters called it a "Blackout Hate Rally" and called for more police accountability and an end to police brutality. 

Each of the protestors wore black at the rally, many held signs, and they made their voices loud and clear. 

"We all came together in solidarity to show that Orlando is no place for hate," said TJ Legacy Cole, event organizer.  

Cole filed a complaint last summer against Orlando police Officer Robert Schellhorn after a Facebook post the officer made that many say was racist. Cole also requested body camera video and shared the video with News 6 of the same officer on duty heard calling patrons "savages" outside of the Parliament House on Orange Blossom Trail. 

"We have an issue with the lack of sense of urgency when it comes to this issue of police accountability reform," Cole said. "We have an issue with the lack of sense of urgency when it comes to this issue of police accountability reform." 

Cole went on to say, "It’s about the lack of accountability that allows an officer like Officer Schellhorn and these quote on quote bad apples to fester into law enforcement."

Russell Drake, from the Orange County Democratic Black Caucus, was also at Monday's rally.

"We’re here in unity and we’re blacking out hate," he said.

"We call for accountability and to make sure that public safety is our top priority," said community activist Michelle Stacey. 

Schellhorn was suspended, yet remains on the police force. 

On Monday, Orlando police released a statement saying: "Chief Mina appreciates the call for action and everyone’s right to peacefully protest and share their opinions. We continuously look at our policies and procedures to implement best practices, in an effort to uphold our officers to the highest standards. Since then, we have updated our social media policy to include possible discipline of termination."

The mayor's office also released the following statute and statement explaining how officers are protected by state law. 

"Pursuant to state law, disciplinary procedures are a mandatory subject of collective bargaining. The City and the police union have a bargained procedure in place that cannot be changed without bargaining.

Police officers are also protected by a state "Law Enforcement Officers' Bill of Rights."  Those rights include a statute of limitations, requiring discipline within 180 days of the agency receiving notice of the allegations. 

There is additional language in the police collective bargaining agreement that prevents the Citizen Police Review Board from taking any disciplinary action.  

The language in the contract is as follows:  "The City may establish a Citizen's Police Review Board as provided for in Chapter 48 of the Code of the City of Orlando provided, however, no such Board shall have the authority to impose or modify disciplinary actions against employees."

About the Author:

Jerry Askin is an Atlanta native who came to News 6 in March 2018 with an extensive background in breaking news.