"Why didn't you?'" Brin remembers asking.

"You are lucky to be alive. I almost killed you," he repeated.


I'm outraged by the police in these cases," says Brian Silber, who is defending the Brins and Cortes and another man, Guillermo Diaz, who claims he was beaten by BSO deputies. "These victims were brutalized at their own homes. I plan to fight these cases until my clients are completely exonerated."

But determining what constitutes "brutality" is exactly the question. There's force, and there's excessive force. Broward Sheriff's Office Commander David Robshaw, who runs the Internal Affairs Division jointly with District Chief John Hale, says civilians tend to confuse the two. The former is pretty much part of a day's work for Broward deputies; the latter happens when situations spin out of control. Nobody's a big fan of excessive force, Robshaw says. It's embarrassing.

Any deputy who uses force is required to file a report. What happened to Daniel Cortes and Gina Brin generated one of 57 "Subject Control Incident Reports" on file with Internal Affairs for North Lauderdale District 15 in 2008 and 2009. The bulk of these were part of routine procedure. But when a civilian files an excessive force complaint, it generates a Preliminary Investigative Inquiry (PII). And here's where the line between "force" and "excessive force" gets trickier.

"Excessive force" is the official police term, but people who say they suffered beatings and witnesses to the scenes use more vivid terms. They remember fragile heads pounded on concrete. They tell of being pulled feet first from police cars while cuffed so that their unprotected heads hit the ground. They show their scars. They point to bruises where facial bones were broken or where police batons impacted soft belly flesh.

New Times investigated four citizen complaints of excessive force lodged with BSO's Internal Affairs in the North Lauderdale District in 2008 and 2009. All of them involved beatings severe enough to land victims in the hospital. Multiple witnesses testified that deputies struck first. They say the beatings were unprovoked or excessive for the circumstances. Internal Affairs eventually dismissed all of the cases. None of the deputies involved in the beatings was disciplined.

These cases illustrate the difficulties civilians encounter when seeking justice through BSO's system of Internal Affairs. It's virtually impossible for excessive-force complaints to be sustained. The four North Lauderdale complaints occurred in the context of an arrest, with deputies arguing that force was used appropriately and that the men and women they arrested resisted violently. But deputies' versions of events were not confirmed by court testimony, and all of the felony charges of battery on a law enforcement officer were either dropped or the defendant was found not guilty.

New Times spoke with BSO about each of these cases, but sheriff's representatives wouldn't comment on specific cases, nor would they permit interviews with the deputies involved. The deputies' versions of events described in this story were taken from Internal Affairs closeout memos, police reports, and pretrial depositions.

North Lauderdale covers an area of about four square miles; the latest census puts the population at 34,572. There's an unusually diverse racial makeup: whites and blacks in just about equal numbers, around 35 percent each; Hispanics, many of them from Colombia, like Gina Brin and her sons, make up 21 percent. It's a largely working-class area of unassuming cement-block single-family homes. The North Lauderdale District 15 is one of 17 districts served by BSO. "It's like a small town here," Tabitha Maddeaux, Daniel's girlfriend, told New Times. "The police station is right in the middle of everything, and everybody knows what's going on."

An excessive-force complaint generated in the context of a crime often becomes hopelessly bogged down while the criminal case progresses. Lawyers commonly advise clients to postpone or drop Internal Affairs complaints until after the trial is finished. But once postponed, IA won't revisit a complaint, even if the defendant is found not guilty.

Broward Assistant Public Defender Gordon Weekes says Internal Affairs complaints rarely result in justice for civilians. "If you read enough of these closeout memos, look at enough probable-cause affidavits, you'll see that there is a dual system of justice at work," Weekes says. "Officers' testimony is given much greater weight than a citizen's. When complaints against police come in, the witnesses are discredited. And the question is, how do you face law enforcement when they have wronged you? Citizens deserve a fair and just review. They need to know that their complaints will not be readily dismissed, that they will get a fair, accurate conclusion about what happened."

Hollywood attorney Hugh Koerner, who has specialized in police brutality cases for 15 years, concurs. "In most complaints of excessive force," he says, "civilians will generally not have overwhelming proof. You have a police officer serving as both investigator and judge. The landscape is not set up to promote justice — it's set up to enforce internal rules. The only real remedy for a civilian is to file a civil rights suit in federal district court."

Photos and hospital reports would seem to carry a lot of weight. So would recorded calls like Brin's hysterical 911 exchange, an "excited utterance" made under stress; in court, it's judged more trustworthy because it's not premeditated. But excited utterances and black eyes don't hold much clout with IA investigators. If civilians end up looking much worse than the police they were supposedly fighting, that's because "it's not supposed to be a fair fight," says BSO spokeswoman Dani Moschella. "The deputy is trying to stop whatever is happening as quickly as possible."

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1 comments
debglee
debglee

THIS ALONSO WITH HIS CRONIES , Did NOTHING when i called in a theft in my home .. they took No Inventory and when i insisted they do something ,,, they Arrested me .... iN MY OPINION BSO = bULL sH*T oRGANIZATION  that was in 2006 ... they know who i am but they Know Not What I am Made Of ! 

 
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