July 12, 2020
Suspects should go free unless cops have bodycam footage, Broward prosecutor says
 
 
By Rafael Olmeda
 
The Broward State Attorney’s Office is standing behind a prosecutor who suggested that police should not be believed unless they record their arrests and other interactions on camera.

“Any arrest made without backup body camera footage should be ruled void and the suspect should walk immediately,” Assistant State Attorney Jeff Chukwuma posted on his Instagram page. “Any allegation of misconduct reported against an officer without backup body camera footage should be presumed to be true.”

In his post, Chukwuma said he developed the list with his brother as a “starting point” for reforms. In addition to the body camera issue, he listed seven other suggestions aimed at holding rogue police officers accountable to improve relations with the community. Some are not controversial, but others have police wondering if Chukwuma can be fair with their cases.

“Mr. Chukwuma claims that any allegation of misconduct without video shall be presumed to be truthful,” which “completely ignores the presumption of innocence guaranteed to all citizens,” wrote Broward Police Benevolent Association President Rod Skirvin in a letter to State Attorney Mike Satz.

“Mr. Chukwuma expressed to us that he was trying to articulate reforms that could be made to cause greater transparency, and therefore increase credibility of law enforcement in our community,” Satz wrote in a reply to Skirvin. “Mr. Chukwuma advised us that his suggestions were aspirational and in no way indicate a bias against police.”

The State Attorney’s Office has championed the expansive use of body cameras by police, Satz noted.

Skirvin said Friday he was not satisfied with Satz’s response, but the union has not decided whether or how to follow up. “We definitely feel this prosecutor has a bias against police officers,” he said. “We’re not going to allow police officers to be vilified in the community and presumed to be criminals.”

He said if police are suspended without pay every time they discharge their weapon or use deadly force, as Chukwuma’s post advocated, it would paralyze officers who are justified in protecting themselves or others from harm.