Former Cop of the Year in Florida Disciplined for Humiliating Teen During Arrest

Pilar Melendez
Orlando Police Department

A Florida cop once named patrol officer of the year has been disciplined after body-camera footage showed him taunting a teenager during a May arrest, authorities said.

Orlando Police Officer Jonathan Mills allegedly intended to “taunt, belittle, humiliate and even incite a person to do violence” while assisting in the May 10 arrest of three teenagers accused of loitering outside a liquor store, according to an internal report obtained by The Orlando Sentinel.

Mills, who was named 2018 patrol officer of the year for being “the most proactive member of his squad,” was disciplined for his behavior, which is “not representative of the high standards of the professional conduct expected from members of the Orlando Police Department,” Mike Stanley, an Internal Affairs investigator, said in the report.

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On May 10, Mills detained the three young men—two 19-year-olds and a 17-year-old—after another officer stopped them outside a liquor store in Parramore for loitering.

According to the report, body-cam footage shows Mills grabbing the hands of one of the teenagers during the arrest and commenting about his “soft hands.”

“These soft hands have been through something,” Mills told the teen, according to the video. “You have no marks on your knuckles, you’ve never been in a fight.”

Mills then saw another teen talking on his cellphone, at which point he grabbed it and tossed it to the ground, Stanley said in his report.

“I hope he runs,” Mills then said to another one of the teenagers.

The teenagers were then “detained and seated on the ground in a position of disadvantage” that did not serve a purpose, the report states.

In an interview with Internal Affairs, Mills claimed he grabbed the teen’s hands to break “the cycle of whatever he’s thinking about.” The report, however, notes the officer didn’t remove a screwdriver that was within the teen’s reach—calling into question whether Mills thought the young suspect “posed an immediate threat” as he originally claimed. The report also says that Mills’ comment about hoping the teen would run “serves to discredit” the officer’s account.

The internal investigation was launched after the mother of one of the 19-year-olds filed a police complaint.

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Mills was accused by the mother, who is black, of racial bias. She said the officer spoke to her “in an angry and abrupt manner” when she asked why her son was being detained. She also claimed Mills refused to answer questions about the arrest and said she was treated differently than a white woman who arrived at the scene.

Mills denied the allegations, and the report concluded that the body-cam footage does not provide sufficient evidence to support her claims. The officer also denied treating the teenagers unfairly, writing in his incident report that the trio was “yelling at the officers and causing a disturbance.”

While the teens were arrested for violating a disorderly conduct ordinance, prosecutors later dropped charges against both of the 19-year-olds. Additional details regarding the third teen were not immediately available because he is a minor. 

An Orlando Police spokesman said the police chief “is not worried” about the report’s findings and the decision to keep Mills on the force, stating that “discipline is also intended as a corrective measure” and that disciplinary actions were taken. It’s unclear what precise measures the department took against the officer.

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“Chief Rolón believes Ofc. Mills will conduct himself professionally going forward,” the spokesperson said.

Mills has previously faced excessive force lawsuits that were settled by the city and was given a verbal reprimand after he was accused of making a racist comment to a woman during a traffic stop in March 2016. 

“That hairdo is sad,” Mills allegedly told the woman. “You’ve got to get your hair done, girl.”

Despite the lawsuits, the report states Mills made more than 100 arrests and confiscated numerous guns and drugs in 2018, prompting members of his squad to “consider him a leader...motivating and assisting them,” the report said.

Read more at The Daily Beast.

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