‘A lack of integrity’: Board raises questions about former Orlando police officer’s handling of traffic stop

ORLANDO, Fla. — It started as a traffic stop and ended with a takedown that got a former Orlando police officer in trouble. The officer is now a sheriff’s deputy in another county.

The Citizens’ Police Review Board heard the case against Ryan Sayer on Wednesday and raised questions about his discipline and which use of force cases trigger an automatic investigation.

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In the body camera video 9 Investigates obtained you can see the passenger of the vehicle walking out of Spring Lake off Orange Blossom Trail.

“Keep walking, walk backwards,” the Orlando police officers shouted.

The man is complying with every order. Moments later, former Orlando police officer Ryan Sayer slams him to the ground, using what’s called a takedown.

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“Put your hands above your head! Stop resisting, put your hands behind your back,” the officers continue to shout.

Sayer was initially suspended for 16 hours. Internal Affairs found the demands for the suspect to crawl out of the lake unreasonable and the takedown excessive, given that the suspect was complying.

“Officer Sayer stated the suspect was resisting as he refused to crawl to him. Internal Affairs found this order unreasonable. A crawl would’ve placed his head under water, furthermore (the suspect) was completely compliant and not resisting at the time of the takedown,” Sgt. Ryan McConnell said during the Citizens’ Police Review Board meeting.

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Board chair, attorney Caila Coleman, questioned the former officer’s behavior.

“If you are purposely leaving things out of paperwork that shows that you took somebody down while they were coming out of water or still in water, or giving them commands that would’ve been impossible for them to do and then you don’t report that, that’s a lack of integrity,” Coleman said.

His 16-hour suspension was reduced to a written censure during the grievance process, further frustrating police review board members.

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“Maybe it’s a C.Y.A thing, but when they grabbed him and throw him on the floor, he was still complying but they keep sayings ‘stop resisting, stop resisting,’ and I’ve seen that in other videos before, it’s almost like they’re trying to justify it,” Raul Perez said.

Sayer had a history of other issues with OPD and voluntarily left the agency. But in December, he was sworn in as a deputy with the Citrus County Sheriff’s Office about an hour away.

Back in Orlando this board is now asking why OPD doesn’t automatically require its officers to report every takedown and why all aren’t investigated regardless of injuries.

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“We want to find out if it’s a case of abuse or if it’s something the officer had to do his or her job,” Julio Guerrero said.

The Criminal Justice Standards and Training Commission, which certifies law enforcement officers, sent Sayer a letter on March 21, 2021. A letter was also sent to the Citrus County Sheriff’s Office, which did not immediately respond to our questions about his employment.

The chair of the commission wrote, “The Panel found that your actions as an officer were not acceptable … Instead of finding probable cause the Panel has the authority to issue an officer this Letter of Guidance … future violations of Commission standards will not be tolerated.”