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Florida cop reinstated after being fired for excessive force

In 2012, a Sarasota police officer lost his job for allegedly using excessive force on a man he was arresting in a nightclub. Now he has won back the right to wear a badge.

According to an internal investigation after the August 2012 incident, the officer choked, punched and cursed at the 29-year-man as he and other officers arrested him. Video of the incident reportedly shows the officer striking the man even after he was on the floor. Further, he was accused of providing misleading information to those investigating the case. Prosecutors elected not to criminally prosecute the officer for battery.

The former police chief who fired the officer stood by his decision, noting the excessive force, which he said seemed "punitive." He also quoted the officer as allegedly saying about the man after the incident, "I should have killed him."

The bar patron, a sales representative, was not charged with a crime after his arrest for disorderly conduct. However, he says the incident still haunts him, and that he has been in therapy. The Sarasota man, who is suing the city, says he is also concerned about his reputation. He notes that Google searches bring up photos of his badly-beaten face after his arrest.

The arbitrator in the officer's case determined that the policeman used "reasonable" force to subdue the detainee given his size and the resistance he was putting up. He will be reinstated to the force and receive back pay. He is scheduled to be back on patrol in June. Under the arbitration rules established between the Southwest Florida Police Benevolent Association, the Sarasota Police Department has to reinstate him based on the decision.

However, the officer, who joined the SPD in 2003 and was named Officer of the Year three years later, seems to have at least the qualified support of the new police chief. She said that her information indicates that he is a good officer. She cautions, though, that during her tenure, "We're going to keep track of every one of our officers, and hold them accountable."

While law enforcement officers have unique procedures for fighting wrongful termination and other disciplinary actions, Florida's private sector employees who believe they have wrongfully lost their jobs or faced discrimination have every right to seek legal advice to determine whether they can take legal action against an employer.

Source: Herald-Tribune, "Sarasota officer fired in Club Ivory beating to be reinstated" Ian Cummings, May. 20, 2014

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