Orlando
Orlando police officers seen outside at the main entrance of Pulse nightclub (black building behind) after a fatal shooting and hostage situation on June 12, 2016 in Orlando, Florida. The suspected shooter, Omar Mateen, was shot and killed by police. 50 people are reported dead and 53 were injured. (Photo by Gerardo Mora/Getty Images)

The Orlando police department is reviewing the way it gives out its annual honors after an officer who was the subject of lawsuits against the department twice for excessive force was named officer of the year.

According to the Orlando Sentinel, back in February, Officer Jonathan Mills got the award recognizing him for his 2018 accomplishments. Mills was honored “for being the most proactive member of his squad” and motivating fellow officers, despite the fact that he was accused of making a racist comment and being unnecessarily violent.

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In 2016 when he mocked a Black woman’s hairstyle during a traffic stop, telling her, “That hairdo is sad. You’ve got to get your hair done, girl.”  His comment was deemed racist by a member of the Orlando Police Citizens Review Board. As a result he was given an oral reprimand and assigned to sensitivity training.

“I’m concerned as a citizen that you have a police officer that makes these comments, which I believe were racist, still patrolling the streets,” board member Henry Lim said at the time. “It poses a danger to the community and the police force as well.”

Then in 2017 the city had to pay out $130,000 after it settled two excessive force lawsuits. One man claimed Mills put his hand down the back of his trousers and sexually assaulted him while searching for drugs, and another man accused Mills of slamming him to the ground for no reason during a traffic stop.

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“We routinely evaluate our policies and procedures and in this specific area. I decided that we need to improve our selection and evaluation process when it comes to awards,” Chief Orlanod Rolón told the Sentinel when asked about why Mills got any awards given his past. “Going forward, I will be working with my command staff as we go through our awards policies and we will be implementing changes to those policies to ensure that the entire process is beyond reproach.”

But Orlando citizens were upset that the award has not been rescinded and feel the department should have a different policy when officers are accused of bad behavior.

“If he received this award, what message is OPD sending to the citizens they are sworn to protect and serve?” Caila Coleman, vice president of the Orlando Citizens Police Review Board, said after finding out Mill’s honor will not be rescinded. “I would like to believe there are other officers who were better qualified to receive such a prestigious title. Officers who have not had substantiated complaints with internal investigations for misconduct towards citizens, and blatant racism.”

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