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Florida police officer facing criminal charges

An accusation of excessive force by an Orlando police officer has many Florida residents debating whether the men and women tasked with protecting the state's residents are guilty of abusing the power that comes with their position within the community. The case is the fourth time within two months that makes the claim that Orlando officers are abusing their power. Given the respect and admiration that police officers enjoy within the communities that they serve, the criminal charges have raised a number of questions for area residents.

The charges follow a 2014 incident at the Orange County Jail. A 41-year-old man was in a holding cell as he was being processing into the jail for failing to pay a $60 bar tab, which is a misdemeanor offense. Police assert that the man was handcuffed and drunk when he used his head to break a pane of safety glass within the door of the holding cell. At that point, the officer entered the cell and is alleged to have kneed the prisoner in the abdomen.

The prisoner suffered serious injuries, including a ruptured spleen and tears to his stomach lining; his spleen had to be removed during an emergency medical procedure. The injured man has filed a federal lawsuit against the officer. The Orlando Police Department conducted an internal investigation into the incident and found that the officer violated departmental policy by striking the prisoner. The officer was punished with the loss of five day's pay, an outcome that the prisoner asserts is unjust, given the injuries he suffered in the incident.

The officer now faces criminal charges of felony battery, and he has been placed on administrative duty until the matter is resolved in court. As the case continues, additional details may arise that could justify the level of force used to subdue the prisoner. While the details of this case are disturbing to many in Florida, it is important to understand that police officers work within a dynamic and dangerous environment and are tasked with making quick decisions as they interact with individuals who are under arrest. It is possible that this officer was attempting to subdue a drunk and violent prisoner when the injuries were suffered, and that the court will determine that the level of force used was appropriate to the situation at hand.  

Source: orlandosentinel.com, "4th OPD officer to face criminal charges of excessive force", Desiree Stennett, March 24, 2015

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