Police records show the officer has used force at least a dozen times and brandished his weapon at least 50 times during his four years with the Fort Lauderdale, Florida, police department. He once forced an elementary school student with a history of mental illness to the floor to handcuff her. Another time, he pointed his service gun at a woman, ordering her to drop the broom she was holding. In a separate incident, he delivered a “distractionary elbow” to a suspect's stomach while trying to coax the hand-cuffed man into the back of a police car.
Despite that history and several videos showing his violent response to the protester on Sunday, Officer Steven Pohorence has not been fired from the department. He has been suspended – with pay – while the state investigates his actions during the protest.
“We’re getting all kinds of threats to burn down the city until he’s fired,” Fort Lauderdale Mayor Dean Trantalis told USA TODAY Wednesday.
In the protests that have erupted across the U.S. following the death of George Floyd, police officers have been caught on video shoving, hitting and ramming their vehicles into protesters. Police fired paint canisters at people standing on their front porch in Minneapolis, knocked over an elderly man with a cane in Salt Lake City and knocked over another elderly man in Buffalo. A man in Louisville was shot and killed by police amid a protest and an Austin college student suffered a fractured skull after getting struck in the head by a bean bag fired by police. Journalists covering the protests were fired at with rubber bullets and tear gas in close range.
Police officers have been subjected to attacks, as well. They’ve had bottles and bricks thrown toward their bodies, fireworks and Molotov cocktails hurled in their direction. They've been shot, stabbed and rammed by cars.
But while those officers have the power to immediately respond and arrest their attackers, protesters who have filmed their violent encounters with police are learning that holding officers accountable when they cross the line is a far different story.
City leaders defended officers in Philadelphia who unloaded tear gas on protesters who were pinned up against a highway embankment. There's been no punishment for the New York Police Department officers who rammed their SUV into a crowd of protesters, the officer who tore the mask off a protester to pepper spray him, or another officer who shoved a female protester to the ground.
The result, according to protesters and city leaders, is a troubling moment where police officers are acting with impunity on the streets of America.
"The kind of officers that we’re talking about need to be immediately fired and removed form the department, boldly, quickly and effectively," said Laurie Cumbo, majority leader of the New York City Council. "Instead, those officers are going to undergo some sort of bizarre and obscure investigation that’s going to take so long that people are not going to be able to follow it."