Florida officer who shoved protester was reviewed over force

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Protesters march through the streets over the death of George Floyd, Tuesday, June 2, 2020, in Miami. Protests were held throughout the country over the death of Floyd, a black man who died after being restrained by Minneapolis police officers on May 25. (AP Photo/Lynne Sladky)

MIAMI (AP) — A police officer who was suspendedfor pushing a kneeling black woman to the ground at a George Floyd demonstration in Florida has been under review numerous times for pointing guns and using force on suspects, and at least once for racial profiling, a review of his personnel files shows.

The files, obtained by The Associated Press in response to an open records request, also reflect that Fort Lauderdale Police Officer Steven Pohorence, 29, 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.

Video of Pohorence pushing the woman to the ground on Sunday was shared widely on social media asprotestsagainst police violence and racial injustice erupted across the country. Pohorence’s shove escalated a clash in which bottles were thrown and tear gas fired.

Most of the files that detail Pohorence’s scrutinized encounters with suspects do not specify the suspects’ race, and none of the incidents, all of which were reviewed by Internal Affairs, resulted in disciplinary action. Investigators concluded there weren’t any department policy violations, according to reports in the files.

Since he began working for the police department in October 2016, Pohorence has been reviewed 67 times for using force when stopping or detaining suspects, the files show.

In more than 50 incidents, Pohorence pointed his gun at suspects, many for driving vehicles suspected of being stolen. In a few incidents, he was described as being present when other officers allegedly used force with suspects.

The South Florida Sun Sentinel first reported that Pohorence had been investigated in the past for alleged use of force.

On two occasions, according to the files the AP obtained, Pohorence and other officers pointed their guns at women suspected of driving stolen cars while their children were in the back, records said. Both women were released after officers cleared up the confusion.

Another time, Pohorence handcuffed an elementary school-age girl who was trying to attack another student with scissors, and placed her in custody for a mental health evaluation under Florida’s Baker Act.

The officer was exonerated in an incident where a man complained he was unnecessarily stopped while driving a rental car because he was black. The man said a Broward Sheriff’s Office canine unit arrived to search the vehicle for drugs “for no valid reason,” and no narcotics were found.

Pohorence declined to comment when reached by telephone Wednesday. The Fort Lauderdale Police department said the Internal Affairs department reviews all complaints, including allegations of excessive force.

“In this case, all of his instances of use of force were reviewed and found to be within policy,” spokeswoman Casey Liening said in an email.

Pohorence previously served as a state trooper for the Florida Highway Patrol, where he was named Trooper of the Month and nominated for a “lifesaving award,” according to employee records.

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.”

“He understands and utilizes tactics that put a high probability on safely confronting and detaining violent offenders,” Jones wrote, while also noting that the officer was sent to mandatory training “to improve his interactions with the public with emphasis on public speaking.”

Pohorence was praised for helping to stop a woman from jumping to her death from an overpass in April 2019, and was commended for providing CPR and applying a tourniquet on an injured man after a crash. Earlier this year, a lieutenant praised Pohorence for helping to locate and arrest a homicide suspect.

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