ORLANDO, Fla. – Deputies with the Orange County Sheriff’s Office now have a duty to intervene "if they anticipate or observe the unreasonable, unnecessary or disproportionate use of force,” according to the agency’s recently updated use of force policy.
The Sheriff’s Office added the policy change June 2, effective immediately.
Sheriff John Mina made the change as protests within the county called for policy reform and law enforcement accountability.
The demonstrations come after the brutal death of George Floyd in Minneapolis. Floyd’s final breath was caught on video as then officer Derek Chauvin kneeled on his neck for nearly nine minutes as three other officers were seen standing nearby. All four officers are facing charges in connection with Floyd’s death.
OSCO’s added protocol tries to mitigate deputies from becoming bystanders in potentially deadly situations where a fellow law enforcement officer could be using excessive use of force.
This policy was added to the Sheriff’s Office outline of protocols that determine when a deputy is recommended to use force and how.
“When determining what level of force to use, deputies shall consider the risk to the public, including but not limited to, whether the deputy’s use of fore creates a substantial risk to the safety of the public,” the policy states.
OCSO deputies are also required to record all use of force incidents in which an on-duty supervisor will review and determine if it’s in line with the agency’s policies.
The use of force policy could see more changes.
Sheriff Mina reviewed the agency’s policies at 6 p.m. Tuesday with its Citizens Advisory Committee.
The committee is made up of nine diverse members from faith leaders, former commissioners, and people with military and civilian experience.
“I think the advisory boards are a great way of communicating through citizen representation,” Former Orange County Commissioner Scott Boyd said.
"We have been training for years to intervene. We’re not going to let that happen here," said Sheriff Mina. "In looking at our use of force policy, it wasn’t spelled out. So I wanted it very clear, mostly to the community, because we’ve been training for this for years."
Tuesday’s meeting with the citizen’s advisory committee is also coming days after a deputy was seen on video using his baton to smash a woman’s car window when investigators say she refused to exit her car during a traffic stop. She has not been charged and the deputy is still working. Sheriff Mina said they’re still reviewing that case.
Allie Braswell said he joined the Orange County Sheriff’s Office Citizens Advisory Committee three months ago.
“Being an African American male in Orange County, I still leave my home and have the concern as I go out into the community, my interaction with law enforcement, will it be a positive one. Will I return from it?” Braswell said.
Sheriff Mina said in 2019 use of force was used in less than one in every 100 arrests.
He said he added the “duty to intervene” into the agency’s policy.
Mina said the video of George Floyd is a clear example of when another officer should have stepped in
“Do you think you might possibly look at using that exact video in training?" he was asked.
"I may. I mean that’s a criminal act.”
Mina said in order to make officers feel comfortable to intervene, even if it means standing up to a supervisor. He will set the example at the top, making it clear there will be consequences for officers who sit idle during events of misconduct.
“If we put that in our policy if we train, if we make it important as a leader of this agency, it will happen.”
Sheriff Mina does not have the legal obligation to take any of the committee’s upcoming recommendations.
The next meeting is scheduled for July 21, and it is open to the public. The committee is expected to present the recommendations.
The labor union of the Orange County Sheriff’s Office Fraternal Order of Police Lodge 93 has filed a grievance against the Sheriff’s Office.
A Facebook post from the union shows it wants to change “duty to intervene” language to a state a deputy must intervene only if they “witness” excessive force.
The current policy changed on June 2, states a deputy has the obligation to intervene if the officer “anticipates or observes.”
The union also said Sheriff Mina violated their contract by not allowing a 10-day notice to the union, prior to the policy being put in place.
The fraternal order of police also wrote in their post it wants to be part of the conversation policy changes