MIAMI – A police officer who was suspended for pushing a kneeling black woman to the ground at a George Floyd demonstration in Florida is under scrutiny again after the agency reviewed bodycam footage from two unrelated incidents and referred them to state prosecutors for possible criminal charges.
Earlier this month, video of Fort Lauderdale Police Officer Steven Pohorence pushing a woman to the ground was shared widely on social media as protests against police violence and racial injustice erupted across the country. Pohorence’s shove escalated a clash in which bottles were thrown and tear gas fired. One woman suffered a skull fracture after being shot in the face with a rubber bullet.
Police Chief Rick Maglione said Tuesday they had reviewed hundreds of minutes of bodycam footage and found two troubling incidents. The chief also turned the footage over to the Florida Department of Law Enforcement for investigation.
In one video, Pohorence appears to place his knee on the neck of a suspect who refused orders to leave a parked bus and terminal. The incident is evocative of Floyd's death, although in this case the suspect is clearly resisting Pohorence.
In a second video, the Sun Sentinel reports Pohorence walks toward the suspect who allegedly trespassed on someone’s property, ordering him to put his hands behind his back or “I'll put my hands on you.”
The suspect backs away with his hands raised and says he will leave, as Pohorence appears to place his hand on his gun, grabs the suspect's shoulders and kicks his legs from under him, causing the suspect to fall. The video show Pohorence pin him down by placing his hand on the back of his neck as the suspect screams at Pohorence to let him go.
The officer has been on paid leave since June 1 while the incident is under review. He could not be reached for comment and a call to the union was not immediately returned Tuesday.
A review of his personnel files shows Pohorence has been under review 67 times times for pointing guns and using force on suspects, and at least once for racial profiling. In more than 50 incidents, Pohorence pointed his gun at suspects, many for driving vehicles suspected of being stolen.
The files also reflect that Pohorence received several commendations over the years for helping people in need and was named Trooper of the Month once while employed by the Florida Highway Patrol.
In his last review in October, supervisor Sgt. John Jones, said Pohorence “requires little if any supervision and his self-motivation serves as a role model for others.”