Following a heightened interest in law enforcement reform during the past year, police officers, though not often enough, are paying the price for abusing their authority.
Most recently, an officer from Sarasota, Florida was caught teasing a handcuffed homeless man by throwing peanuts in his face, the Herald Tribune reports. Andrew Halpin arrested Randy Miller last week for public drunkenness. After booking him, Halpin threw peanuts into Miller’s mouth and made him pick up the ones that hit the ground.
Video of Halpin’s behavior went viral on Monday, but before authorities could question the officer, he quickly resigned.
“It was a very wise move for him” to quit, said Michael Barfield, vice president of the American Civil Liberties Union of Florida. “He should be ashamed of his conduct.”
Halpin was employed by the Sarasota Police department for five years and was disciplined in the past for his conduct. In July 2012, he was accused of harassing women at a local beach resort, followed by his removal from the Emergency Response Team at the Republican National Convention in Tampa for insubordinate behavior towards his bosses. In May 2013, he reportedly allowed a drunk driver to go home with a friend after he rear-ended a woman’s car.
Meanwhile, an officer from San Francisco is facing three years in jail for harassing a homeless man in a hospital.
In November 2014, deputy Sheriff Michael Robert Lewelling, 33, was asked to remove 59-year-old Fernando Guanill from San Francisco General Hospital for disruptive behavior. When Guanill stood up with his cane to leave, Lewelling pushed him back down and assaulted him. The incident didn’t come to light until other officers noticed Lewelling lied on the police report about the series of events. Surveillance footage proved that Lewelling falsely claimed he was attacked by Guanill.
“Anytime an officer violates the law, it is damaging to all of law enforcement. What is even more troubling is that this occurred at a hospital,” said District Attorney George Gascón. “No one is above the law, most of all those who enforce it.”
A jury convicted Lewelling of a misdemeanor assault and felony charges. He was found not guilty for the false report filing and charge of assault with force likely to produce great bodily injury.
He will be sentenced on October 7.
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