Florida police officers were caught on tape laughing about shooting Black Lives Matter protesters with rubber bullets on May 31, believing that their body cameras had been switched off. The footage was released by the Miami Herald Wednesday and shows Fort Lauderdale SWAT team unit leader Detective Zachary Baro struggling with his gas mask before he starts shooting at protesters with way too much enthusiasm.
BREAKING: Fort Lauderdale police officers thought their body cameras were off when they laughed and joked about shooting protesters with rubber bullets. “Did you see me f**k up those motherf****rs?” one said to laughter. https://t.co/Cmgox50nns w/ @Blaskey_S— Nicholas Nehamas 🏝 (@NickNehamas) July 1, 2020
“Beat it, little f***er,” Baro barks toward a protester fleeing the less-lethal rounds. Later, Officer Jamie Chatman asks him if his body camera is off, and Baro replies that it’s in standby, meaning it’s not recording. However, he was incorrect. That’s when they start joking and laughing about shooting people.
“Did you see me f**k up those motherf****rs?” one asks.
“I got the one f***er,” the other replies.
Turning off a body camera on duty should be prosecuted as destruction of evidence.
— Will Rosecrans (@forkazoo) July 2, 2020
Like many others across the country, the Fort Lauderdale protesters were rallying against police brutality after the murder of George Floyd by former police officer Derek Chauvin. Police confronted the crowd with riot gear, tear gas, pepper spray, rubber bullets, and other “less lethal” weapons, while protesters had little other than water bottles and things the cops had already thrown at them.
Still, the Fort Lauderdale Police Department excused the behavior of their officers by saying that they were having a hard time.
“Your story shows less than 3 minutes of an 8 minute and 43 second long video,” Police Chief Rick Maglione said in a statement targeting the Herald. “The entire video clearly demonstrates our officers were under attack by a group of people who chose to use violence instead of peace to antagonize the situation. Although the language is extreme, and offensive to some, our officers were dealing with the chaos of a developing situation.“
#FLPD RESPONSE TO MIAMI HERALD STORY: Here is a statement from Chief Rick Maglione and a release of the body camera footage in its entirety.— Fort Lauderdale PD (@FLPD411) July 2, 2020
Link to video: https://t.co/7z7tOBxkOf pic.twitter.com/tpraF9ElAD
It’s not so much the language as it is the joking, laughing, and dehumanizing of the people police are supposedly meant to protect and serve. Former police officer and current Florida State professor George Kirkham disagrees that the conduct of Baro and his colleagues should go unchecked and believes he should be investigated as a team leader.
“This is serious misconduct. This is people with badges acting like thugs,” Kirkham said. “It’s like a cancer. If you let it go, it will spread.”
“I understand what it’s like to have that adrenaline. I’ve been in a riot situation. But that does not excuse that kind of verbiage and behavior. It suggests that the police think they can do whatever they want and get away with it.”
Urban police officers do not seem to see themselves as fellow citizens and members of our communities. They do not even seem to see us as human beings worthy of humane treatment.
— Elizabeth Johnson (@missbeffle) July 2, 2020
The Herald reports that Maglione did not respond to questions about whether any of the officers in the recording have been removed from duty or whether they will be investigated.