MIAMI (CBSMiami) – There has been a lot of discussion, both locally and nationally, about a video showing Broward Sheriff’s Office deputies pepper spraying and body slamming a teenage boy during an arrest.
Charges against the teen have since been dropped but the controversy over the rough arrest continues.
Melba Pearson is the deputy director of the Florida American Civil Liberties Union and she has a strong opinion on the subject.
“As a member of the community, as a former prosecutor, as a civil rights attorney, I’m sickened to my core,” said Pearson. “This is why communities of color in this state and in this county have zero trust in law enforcement.”
She also said she was stuck by the comments of Broward County Sheriff Gregory Tony earlier this week when he spoke to local lawmakers in Tamarac.
“Accountability has to rest with the leader,” Pearson said. “If it is your staff that has done something inappropriate, you need to rectify it. And rather than be indignant, you should be listening to what the concerns are of the community and looking for a way to resolve it.”
She notes that the aggressive tactics seen by the deputies in the video are what the new sheriff has pushed for since taking over BSO earlier this year.
Also this week, a video was released showing a BSO deputy punching a man who was handcuffed to a hospital bed.
“Clearly there is starting to be a pattern of violence in this department,” she said. “Basically the buck stops with the leader, and the leader is Sheriff Tony.”
Tony has been adamant that he will not rush to judgement and will let the investigation play out.
Some have been critical of the sheriff for not condemning the actions of the officers while others feel that his tone when addressing the issue, specifically at a commission meeting in Tamarac, has left something to be desired.
“Of course I fully support due process. I don’t agree with calls to fire the officers at this juncture, I think an investigation should be fully conducted. The problem is too often these investigations with ‘there was more to the story than you really saw.’ There’s never any punishment, there’s never any retraining and if anything, these officers either get desk duty for a while and end up back on the street with no penalty and able to do this sort of behavior again, or they go to another department and the sanctions don’t follow them.”
She says the community needs to see law enforcement holding itself responsible for these issues in order for trust to be formed.