A Florida police officer has been suspended after he was seen shoving a kneeling protester at an anti-racism demonstration on Sunday.
Videos captured by bystanders show the man, identified by authorities as Fort Lauderdale police officer Steven Pohorence, confronting protesters outside a parking garage. As the officer, who appears to be white, is turning to walk away, he pushes to the ground a Black woman who is kneeling with her hands in the air.
A Black female police officer can be seen pulling Pohorence from the crowd and scolding him as other demonstrators scream in response to his actions.
Fort Lauderdale Police Chief Rick Maglione said during a Monday news conference that Pohorence and several of his colleagues entered the crowd to rescue one of his fellow officers who was surrounded and felt endangered.
Pohorence pushed the female protester, who has not been publicly identified, during that rescue mission, Maglione said.
The suspended officer’s actions will be investigated by the Florida Department of Law Enforcement before an internal investigation is conducted, the chief said.
“While it wasn’t resulting in injury, it obviously needs to be looked into,” Maglione said. “If disciplinary action needs to be taken, it will. And it will be swift and corrective in nature.”
He also commended the officer who grabbed Pohorence.
“She did what you are supposed to do,” Maglione said. “When you see either adrenaline or emotion or some kind of interaction going south ... that is our job to do is intervene.”
Pohorence was hired in October 2016 and assigned to patrol duties, according to the Fort Lauderdale Police Department. Previously, he worked for the Florida Highway Patrol.
Fort Lauderdale Mayor Dean Trantalis said he agreed with the department’s decision to suspend Pohorence.
“I thought it was offensive,” Trantalis said during the news conference. “I thought that never should have happened.”
Protests have erupted across the country since George Floyd’s death in Minneapolis on May 25. Floyd, who was unarmed, died after three police officers, including one who knelt on Floyd’s neck, held him down on the ground and ignored his repeated statements that he couldn’t breathe.