Officer John Earle has been with the Orlando Police Department for six years, previously serving in the military as a military police officer, according to his personnel file released to 9 Investigates for Channel 9 investigative reporter Daralene Jones.
Body camera video shows Earle jumping out of his patrol car before his partner even stops, immediately helping Officer William Jimenez tackle a man to the ground. The man was trying to stop officers from coming into his home without a warrant to search for an alleged seat belt violator. Earle is assigned to the special enforcement division, which typically goes after violent offenders.
The neck area, according to an OPD use-of-force diagram should be avoided unless an officer's life is in danger. During a City Council meeting Monday, Orlando police Chief Orlando Rolon told councilmembers that the department would ban chokeholds and look at reviewing how traffic stops are handled just hours before our investigation was scheduled to air.
However, when Jones sat down with Rolon, he provided this explanation about what we see Earle doing in this video.
"The way the officer is holding him is not going to restrict his ability to speak, not going to restrict his ability to voice his concerns about the situation, so keep that in mind," Rolon told Jones.
9 Investigates has reported on Earle’s behavior before, sustained for violating policies in eight different policy investigations. Discipline ranged from reprimands to suspension. In 2017 he was named Employee of the Year because he arrested so many people. At the same time, he was under investigation, later receiving an oral reprimand for initiating a pursuit for a driver who was parked across three parking spots. Earle turned his body camera on and off after using a Taser to shock the man who was later arrested, according to the internal investigation.
His camera was off again in March 2019 when a woman was pepper-sprayed while sitting in a car. He was reprimanded because he didn’t file a use-of-force report. Earle was assigned to the special enforcement division in July when this incident happened in Parramore. Earle held a knee to the man’s neck but did not warrant a formal investigation because the officer didn’t intend to keep his knee here, calling it a teachable moment.
"Although the tactics were within keeping with our policies, we also have an opportunity to mention to our officers that we have different techniques when it comes to takedown, maintaining control," the police chief told Jones.
When asked why Earle, considering his history, would be assigned to the special enforcement division, Orlando police said in a statement: "Officer Earle was assigned to SED when the July incident occurred. He was in good standing and had no disciplinary cases open at the time of his selection for SED. Officer Earle was chosen for SED due to his pro-active policing efforts. On a consistent basis, Officer Earle arrested felony suspects who possessed narcotics and guns, which provided him the opportunity to work in SED."
9 Investigates also looked at the history of the other officers who were among the first to respond.
Jimenez has two supervisory referrals, one of which resulted in an internal investigation and an oral reprimand related to a court appearance. He's been through three other formal internal investigations but was exonerated, including a case of deadly force.
Officer Michael Brown has 15 supervisory referrals related, including two related to bias-free policing. He has faced internal investigations that resulted in two oral reprimands for obedience to policies and two written censures for the same violation.
Officer Luke Austin, who was one of the officers initiating the traffic stop, has 11 supervisory referrals in his file, including one related to bias-free policing. These referrals are typically sparked by complaints about an officer's behavior toward the public or allegations they violated policies or procedures. Austin has received two oral reprimands, one for obedience to policies and procedures and other written directives and another for safe driving of police vehicles, and a written censure for obedience to policies and procedures and other written directives.
Those involved in this case have five open claims with the city for damage to the property at the home on South Street last June. So far, the mother of the family has received a check for just $700. The attorney representing the family said they plan to file a civil lawsuit related to the force used.
Watch the full interview with Rolon below:
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