A Florida police officer is under investigation for allegedly shoving a black protester who was kneeling during a protest. But one of his colleagues, a black woman on the force, is receiving praise for appearing to reprimand him after the shove.
The Fort Lauderdale Police Department confirmed to CNN that Officer Steven Pohorence was relieved of duty and placed on administrative leave pending the results of an investigation into the incident.
It happened during a demonstration in Fort Lauderdale, Florida, on Sunday – one of dozens held nationwide over the past week after the death of George Floyd in police custody. Many of them have been peaceful. But some have turned violent.
In video captured by Instagram user @Illustrious.CEO, a videographer who asked CNN not to use his name out of concerns for his safety, the accused officer is seen approaching the protesters and telling them to back up.
Some protesters got on their knees and began chanting, “Hands up, don’t shoot,” the videographer told CNN of the moment. The officer then appeared to shove a protester who was on her knees. “That’s when the turmoil began,” the videographer said.
But as the officer retreated back to his squad car, two other officers quickly ran after him. One of them, identified by the department’s public information office as Officer Krystal Smith in an email to CNN, appears to yell and scold him with her finger.
The man who shot the video didn’t hear what she said, but said Smith, a black woman, “looked upset.”
“You could tell she was snapping on him,” he said. “She was upset that she had to witness that.”
Police and local officials commended Smith for her actions in two separate news conferences Monday, but said the incident occurred when tensions were already high between demonstrators and police.
Fort Lauderdale Police Chief Rick Maglione said the incident occurred about an hour after the main protest ended, when one officer told her colleagues she was surrounded and felt threatened, and another officer who was in her vehicle said she came under attack. Police are still piecing together a timeline, he said, but they believe the officer was filmed pushing the protester sometime during that police response.
Still, local school board official Rosalind Osgood thanked Smith for taking actions “to check her colleague” when he acted “out of the norm,” and Maglione commended “the other officers that were there for identifying that there was an issue rather quickly.”
The police chief said the officer will “remain home” until the Florida Department of Law Enforcement completes its investigation. When that’s complete, Fort Lauderdale Police says it will conduct its own administrative investigation to find whether he violated police protocol.
CNN attempted to reach Officer Pohorence through his union, the Ft. Lauderdale Fraternal Order of Police, but they declined and offered no further comment, citing the “open and on-going investigation.”