Orange County sheriff candidates take on community policing issues at forum

click to enlarge Orange County sheriff candidates take on community policing issues at forum
Photo cred: Xander Peters
Orange County sheriff candidates Orlando Police Chief John Mina and retired Florida Highway Patrol Chief Joe Lopez discussed their takes on policing issues at a community forum Wednesday evening.

Issues on the conversational chopping block included school safety, filming police, the use of deadly force by police, the "stand your ground" law, hiring practices and community policing, among others. Darryl Sheppard, a Democrat and the only partisan candidate in the county sheriff race, was not in attendance at the forum at New Fellowship Missionary Baptist Church.

Perhaps the only contentious leg of the discussion was when Lopez touched on several controversies involving the Orlando Police Department under Mina's tenure. In particular, he noted the department's history with cases of excessive force and offensive social media posts by OPD officers.

Lopez said that he would take disciplinary actions toward officers a step further than Mina has, in that he would not "just talk that talk, but walk that walk." If elected sheriff, Lopez said he would implement a "zero tolerance" policy on use of excessive force for all officers. He also said that investigations into use of excessive or deadly force by an officer would take no longer than 30 to 60 days.

Since the onset of his term as OPD chief, Mina told the audience, the department has "reduced use of force," "reduced officer-involved shootings" and reduced the "amount of excessive force claims against the City of Orlando by 80 percent."

"That's something I'm very, very proud of," Mina said, noting that only four out of every 100 arrests have involved force.

The crowd didn't take kindly to Mina on that point, offering up a groan. At another point, during a discussion of filming police, when Mina mentioned that officers at OPD also have body cameras, murmurs rippled throughout the crowd. "If they use them," one audience member said under her breath.

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