The Practice of Racial Profiling Is Still Very Real in Orlando

Update (3/25/14): Orlando Police announced they have fired Officer Janir Sims, who filed the racial profiling complaint against OPD. The firing is “retaliatory in nature,” Sims said. “I’m confident OPD will be exposed.”

It looks like the practice of racial profiling is still very real in Orlando. Allegations of racial profiling in Orlando are not new. In fact, I’ve personally heard it at many community meetings around the city, including in Parramore, that police intimidation is high and can feel abusive. But now there are two new racial profiling cases that demand this issue finally be confronted publicly by Mayor Dyer, other local elected officials and the Chief of the Orlando Police Department.

First, Orlando police officer Andrew Peczinka was fired after an internal affairs investigation report found he racially profiled drivers and misused official Florida databases, among other things. The investigation concluded Officer Peczinka also used racial slurs, which he described in his own statement as referring to people from the “hood” and referring to “black people.”

The OPD officer’s text messages spell it out even further. Peczinka texted a woman that when pulling over drivers, he sought out “flat brim hats, twisty hair, [and] dirty beards,” according to the report. The investigation concludes that Peczinka “illegally used physical or personal characteristics relating to race to conduct traffic stops,” and used terms that “are racially inflammatory and appalling.”

This shouldn’t make anyone feel good about policing in Orlando. And it’s getting worse.

Seven-year Orlando Police Officer Janir Sims said two white officers pulled him over two months ago for no reason, and he has filed an official complaint against them. An interesting twist is that Officer Sims admits he often defended OPD against accusations of racist and prejudicial attitudes in the past. But now new disturbing details come from how Officer Sims describes what happened to him as “terrifying and traumatic.”

According to a WFTV report, Sims was off-duty when he was stopped by OPD for no apparent reason on October 5.

Sims said he pulled over and the two officers blocked him in and came at him with their guns drawn.

He wrote, “With my OPD ID in hand and fearing for my life, I immediately began to yell for the officers not to shoot while trying to get them to recognize my ID.”

Sims said the officer closest to him realized he was an officer and replied, “Oh, (expletive.)”

Sims said his BMW was in “perfect working condition” and he was obeying all traffic laws. One of his fellow officers suggested he might have been speeding but had no proof, then claimed his tag was covered.

Think of how many people don’t have an OPD badge in their hands when they yell for officers not to shoot as OPD charges towards them. Officer Sims also wrote in his complaint that his fellow officers “ran towards my vehicle in a reckless manner not prescribed by any formal OPD training that I am aware of.”

The complaint added that this “reckless” behavior by OPD officers “reflects poorly on the department.” Yeah, you could say that.

The Orlando Police Department still struggles with excessive force issues and let’s not forget Mayor Dyer has used OPD to arrest those who are feeding the homeless at Lake Eola.

This behavior is unacceptable. It’s time for our elected leaders and police chief to address this issue and make substantial policy changes to protect the community and forge a stronger relationship between OPD and the people they are sworn to protect.

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