Ex-Fort Lauderdale Police Officer Alex Alvarez, the racist cop sitting center-stage in the scandal that's engulfed the department, once broke a suspect's arm while taking him into custody. Despite the incident, an Internal Affairs review of the use of force found there was “no apparent violation” of department policy, according to a summary of the incident. But that broken arm is just one of the 56 use-of-force incidents tied to Alvarez and the three other cops – Jason Holding, James Wells, and Christopher Sousa – who lost their jobs last week, according to a review of their Internal Affairs summaries.
Of those 56 uses-of-force, not one was flagged by Internal Affairs as a violation of department policy. Yet the overwhelming majority of records included in the officer's files – 56 out of a total 74 – have to do with use of force.
In Alvarez's case, since he joined the department in June 2012, he was subject to five Internal Affairs reviews. Four of those reviews were for use of force. The broken arm belonged to Christopher Keenan (considering Alvarez's well-documented feelings toward African Americans, it's probably worth pointing out court documents list Keenan as white).
In November 2013, Alvarez and another officer responded to a McDonalds. The manager was asking Keenan to leave. Keenan refused. When the officers attempted to place Keenan under arrest he “immediately tensed his body and pulled away from the officers,” the summary report says. “Officer Alvarez then applied force to get Mr. Keenan's hands behind his back and as Officer Alvarez placed Mr. Keenan's hands behind his back he heard an [sic] crunching sound.” The suspect was taken to the hospital where he was later admitted for a broken arm.
The fifth incident was a March 2014 vehicle pursuit involving two other officers. The pursuit crossed into Hallandale Beach, which is beyond the officers' jurisdiction, and the pursuit committee later found “the officers actions [sic] did not comply with Departmental policy.” Alvarez and the two other cops were given verbal counseling.
Jason Holding was subject to 10 reviews since his hiring in January 2012. Five were for use of force. Again, all the instances were okayed upon review. The only smudge on Holding's record comes from a July 2014 complaint from the subject of an arrest who said Holding lost his iPhone after he was taken into custody. The complaint was sustained and Holding “failed to account for property received, found, or confiscated in his official capacity,” the summary says.
Officer Christopher Sousa, hired in April 2010, had 24 incidents in his files. 21 were use-of-force. No policy was violated in any of the situations, according to the Internal Affairs reviews. Sousa's only violation stemmed from a December 2011 vehicle accident that investigators later deemed “preventable.”
Sousa's uses-of-force involved Officer James Wells, another cop who lost his job due to the racist texts. For example, both cops were implicated in the following May 2012 incident:
“Officer Wells pursued and caught [suspect] who took a fighting stance and grabbed hold of Officer Wells' wrist. Wells struck [suspect] with a closed fist to his head in an attempt to free him from [suspect]'s grasp. Officer Sousa grabbed [suspect], leg swept him and guided him to the ground. Once on the ground, [suspect] continued to resist by kicking his feet at the Officers and pulling his arms under his chest. Officer Sousa struck [suspect] with a closed fist to his upper right arm.”
This incident happened on the same day with a different suspect, only hours later. “Officer Sousa attempted to detain [suspect] but he resisted their verbal commands and physical attempts to place him into restraints. Officer Sousa Leg swept [suspect] to the ground and both Officer Wells and Sousa delivered multiple strikes to his upper body and facial area to gain compliance.”
Here's another from July 2012: “As officers attempted to place [suspect] into the rear of the transport vehicle he became uncooperative and refused to allow himself to be placed into the vehicle. Officer Sousa delivered a knee strike to [suspect]'s left leg. Officer Wells delivered a strike to [suspect]'s midsection. [Suspect] became compliant and entered the transport vehicle. No injuries were reported.”
In December 2012, Sousa confronted an unruly guy after midnight on Las Olas Blvd. The suspect entered a cab and refused to get out when Sousa ordered him to. “Ofc. Sousa, with the assistance of Ofc. Wells, delivered strikes to [suspect]'s stomach region and arm area which ultimately proved effective and extracted [suspect] out of the cab.”
Sousa shot a pit bull five times that charged him on a call in August 2013. Again, a review found no violations.
In September 2014 he was working a uniformed off-duty detail at the Royal Pig Pub when he encountered a drunk patron who refused to leave. Sousa placed the guy under arrest, but the suspect “braced his body against the police car. [Suspect] ignored verbal commands to get in the vehicle, necessitating Officer Sousa to relieved closed fist strikes for compliance. [Suspect] was placed in the passenger compartment, however he braced his legs against the door, preventing the door from closing. Officer Sousa delivered strikes to [suspect]'s face and neck area, which finally enabled the officers to secure [suspect].”
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Since he was hired in March 2010, James Wells was involved in 35 incidents that were later reviewed by Internal Affairs. 26 were for use of force. Again, all were cleared. Wells' only violation came from a vehicle pursuit, however it's unclear from the file what if any punishment was handed out due to the violation.
In the use of force incidents, again many involving Wells also involved Sousa. They read with the same violent monotony as all the other reports.
September 2011: “Officer Wells delivered several closed fisted strikes to the right side of [suspect]'s face to gain compliance.” December 2011: “Officer Wells arrived and joined the struggle to take [suspect] into custody. Wells also used hand strikes to attempt to gain control of the subject without success.” December 2014: “Once on the ground, [suspect] refused to comply with verbal commands and place his hands/arms to the rear of his back and was attempting to stand on his feet. Officer Wells struck [suspect] to the right side of his face with a closed fist.” May 2014: “After failing to obey a lawful order, Officer Wells advised [suspect] he was under arrest. Officer Wells grabbed [suspect] by his arm and leg swept him to the ground. Once on the ground, he continued to resist and caused Officer Wells to strike [suspect] on his face, in an effort to gain compliance.”
Obviously, it's important to keep in mind that in many of these incidents, officers were tangling with criminal and other violent offenders. But the sheer number of uses of force is also noteworthy.