Op-ed: Broward County prosecutor wants violent criminals to walk free, cops guilty until proven innocent

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This editorial is brought to you by a staff writer for Law Enforcement Today.

BROWARD COUNTY, FL – There’s a bit of concerning social media activity coming from one of the prosecutors from the Office of the State Attorney’s 17th Judicial Circuit in Broward County, Florida. Namely, this prosecutor seems to think police officers aren’t deserving of the same due process that every other American enjoys.

This social media activity caught the attention Broward County Police Benevolent Association President Rod Skirvin, which that aspect will be explained after diving into the post’s content first.

Jeffrey Chukwuma, who often goes typically goes by Caesar, is the prosecutor in question. On a recent Instagram post, Caesar dreamt up an “agenda” that needs to be implemented. Here are the eight things that Caesar believes should be implemented on a national level:

-All cops must be required to wear body cameras and have them recording any time they come into contact with any suspect, person of interest, or civilian.

-Any arrest made without backup body camera footage should be ruled void and the suspect should walk immediately. Any allegation of misconduct reported against an officer without backup body camera footage should be presumed to be true.

-Internal police investigations must be scrapped. Instead, every DA’s office in the country needs a separate division just to handle police oversight and review cases of alleged misconduct.

-All reviews of misconduct should be adjudicated through evidentiary hearings before a judge requiring officers to prove by a standard of clear and convincing evidence that their conduct was justified under both the circumstances of the situation and the law.

-Once a complaint of misconduct or abuse is made and sent for review, the body camera footage must be made available to the public before the evidentiary hearing.

-Any discharge of a firearm or use of deadly force by police must be automatically sent for review.

-While officers are under review, they must be suspended from the force in all capacities without pay.

-Any officer found guilty of misconduct or abuse must be immediately terminated by their respective departments and barred from serving in law enforcement or security work in any capacity, private or public, indefinitely across the country.

Well, the suggestions delivered by Caesar are quite the culmination of violations of due process, double-standards of innocence and guilt, and of course misleading in the sense that this “agenda” implies some of these things aren’t happening.

To be fair, the notion that police should have body cameras and use them when interacting with the public or suspects isn’t terribly radical; which was Caesar’s first point. But from there, the logic just devolves completely.

In the field, things happen. Body cameras get knocked off, sometimes destroyed when dealing with intense scenarios of dealing with combative suspects or fugitives. Not to mention, technology isn’t perfect.

There’s an amalgamation of reasons why body-cam footage either could get obscured, be non-usable, or somehow not get retrieved if there’s a disconnect to whatever storage server they upload to.

But Caesar’s second item on his “agenda” is one of the worst. In that respect, he believes that if there’s no body-cam footage, then the person arrested should walk right out the door. Probable cause be damned, because there wasn’t a video of the arrest.

Meaning, if someone committed a violent felony against you or a loved one, and the arrest of the alleged offender wasn’t captured on camera, then the suspect walks free.

So, would that mean as soon as the cuffs come off then just another officer places them into custody with an affixed body camera?

Or does that mean that the suspect can no longer be arrested for the alleged offense?

Not to mention, Caesar thinks that if a suspect says they were abused after an arrest where there wasn’t available body-cam footage, then the allegations are presumed to be true. Rough translation of that means that the officer is presumed to be guilty of an offense of abuse.

That presents enormous issues with due process.

Then, Caesar presents idea number three, that the DA’s office should handle investigations of officers regarding alleged misconduct. That’s just a pointless compartmentalization effort, a logistical change to an already existing process handled by internal affairs.

Then there’s the suggested hearing before a judge whenever there’s an unsavory allegation made against a police officer, in which an officer has to prove they’re innocent of misconduct and provide their own evidence of innocence.

That is not how any judicial proceeding works – in a court of law, which if you’re in front of a judge therein lies that aspect, the burden of proof is on your accusers and not on the accused.

Furthermore, the idea of body-cam footage being released to the public whenever there’s a complaint about misconduct levied against an officer presents two glaring issues. On one hand, if the accusation and footage rise to a potential criminal level, then you now have a tainted trial. No officer can receive a fair trial if the jury has been potentially tainted and a possible case gets a trial of public opinion before going before a grand jury or judicial proceedings.

The other issue with immediately releasing body-cam footage to the public after an alleged case of misconduct, is if the accuser made a frivolous complaint against the officer. Then, those accusers have their image blasted online and become victims of their own wanton complaints.

You’d be amazed at how many drunkenly belligerent people arrested would claim abuse in their various states of inebriation while arrested – and then they have a dumb, drunken arrest turn them into a social pariah.

Number six on Caesar’s wish list is extremely misleading. By stating that “any discharge of a firearm or use of deadly force by police must be automatically sent for review,” it implies that police shootings aren’t already investigated. They are, every time, and with a high-degree of scrutiny.

Oh, and number seven on Caesar’s list is just ridiculous with officers getting suspended without pay while being reviewed for misconduct, based upon his ideal version of when an officer should be investigated for misconduct.

It seems, based upon how Caesar spells things out, innumerable accusations of misconduct will be reviewed, done in an outside office of the precinct, and “adjudicated.”

That could spell weeks without pay, or longer, every time an officer is accused of some form of misconduct.

Number eight on Caesar’s pipe dream is almost laughable. People cannot be barred from entering the public sector in a particular position just because they were terminated from a position on a police force.

There’s no law that can be put into place that would make it illegal for someone to get hired as a security guard just because they were fired as an officer for say, breaking chain of custody of evidence (since that would fall under misconduct in a literal sense).

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If such a law were to even be attempted, then you’d run into a pointless legal battle that would run into Constitutional conflict.

Broward County PBA President Rod Skirvin was made aware of Caesar’s online post, and was rightfully disturbed that such notions were coming from a prosecuting attorney from the state prosecutor’s office.

In a letter addressed to Michael J. Satz, Skirvin expressed his concerns about the post, noting how Satz’s office recently terminated another prosecutor for what they posted online:

“You recently terminated a prosecutor for a social media post that bore no relation to perform adequately her job. Since then, another one [of] your prosecutors – Mr. Jeffrey Chukwuma – made a more alarming post that should lead to his dismissal.”

Op-ed: Broward County prosecutor wants violent criminals to walk free, cops guilty until proven innocent

The letter addressed the more concerning elements from the online post, and a copy of the post was sent to Satz along with Skirvin’s concerns.

Satz responded to the letter on June 4th, and essentially dismissed Skirvin’s concerns over Caesar having a bias against police officers, having written the following:

“Mr. Chukwuma advised us that his suggestions were aspirational and in no way indicates a bias against police. Again, he believes that this would help law enforcement improve their credibility with the minority community.”

The response also addressed that Skirvin’s comparison to a previous prosecutor being terminated for their online social media activity isn’t “equivalent” to Caesar’s online social media activity:

“The comment in your letter about the former prosecutor who compared people who ‘commit criminal acts and obnoxious protesting’ to ‘animals’ at the zoo, is not equivalent to a person making recommendations to enhance law enforcement’s credibility in our community.”

Op-ed: Broward County prosecutor wants violent criminals to walk free, cops guilty until proven innocent

Essentially, likening criminals and obnoxious people “animals” on someone’s social media can get a prosecutor fired. Yet, a prosecutor making “recommendations” of subverting due process is okay to do.

How is making fun of criminals and annoying people considered bad as a prosecutor, but a prosecutor suggesting that civil liberties be removed from police is good? One instance is literally more reflective of how one would enact their duties in office versus the other.

Law Enforcement Today reached out to Satz’s office for comment, but have yet to receive a reply. If one is received, we’ll publish that accordingly.

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