A sergeant from the Sunrise Police Department has been relieved of his supervisory responsibilities and is the subject of an internal investigation after body-cam footage from November released last week shows him grabbing an officer by her throat.
Citing the investigation, police released two body-cam videos, after turning off the sound and blurring the faces of all the officers that appear on camera with the exception of Sgt. Christopher Pullease, who has been with the department for more than 21 years.
In a news release sent Monday to the Herald, Sunrise Police Chief Anthony Rosa said he relieved Pullease of his supervisory responsibilities and ordered an internal affairs investigation immediately after he heard about the Nov. 19 incident — first reported by WSVN Channel 7.
Pullease’s supervisor informed Rosa about the incident six days after it happened, Officer Justin Yarborough, a spokesperson with the department, said Tuesday.
“I find this behavior to be disgusting,” Rosa told WSVN in an interview last week.
The videos shows the 46-year-old sergeant who arrived on scene, Rosa said, as officers were placing a “verbally and physically resistive” male suspect into the backseat of a patrol vehicle for transport to jail, according to the news release.
“Once the suspect was inside the patrol vehicle, the sergeant approached and engaged in a verbal altercation with the suspect in a manner that I feel was inappropriate and unprofessional,” Rosa said in the news release. “This supervisor escalated the encounter instead of de-escalating an emotionally charged situation.”
While speaking to the suspect, the sergeant is seen on footage holding a can of pepper spray. Rosa told WSVN that Pullease was pointing it at the handcuffed suspect.
Concerned with things escalating further, an officer approached the sergeant from behind, grabbed him by the back of his duty belt and pulled him backward, Rosa said in the release.
The video then shows the sergeant turning around, putting his left hand up against the throat of the 28-year-old officer and pushing her back against a vehicle.
Police will not release the name of the officer, who has been with the department for less than three years, because she is a witness, Yarborough said.
The officer’s actions are in accordance with the police department’s policies and procedures “that call for intervention when there is an imminent fear of engagements escalating unnecessarily,” Rosa said.
“The men and women of the Sunrise Police Department are expected to de-escalate emotionally charged situations and intervene immediately if it appears that a fellow officer is losing control of themselves or displaying inappropriate conduct while engaged with the public,” Rosa said in the release.