On Tuesday, a day after a video appeared showing a Sarasota policeman kneeling on a man’s neck and back, similar to the tactic used in the George Floyd homicide in Minneapolis, the Sarasota Police Department began installing concrete blocks on East Avenue and in front of Payne Park, prohibiting all vehicle traffic. Editors at the magazine started getting calls and texts, asking us what was happening. Were the police expecting a riot?
Deputy Chief of Police Patrick Robinson said the barriers were erected to safeguard anyone who came to the police department “to exercise their First Amendment right to free speech.” Sarasota police have learned from other communities—Robinson specifically mentioned the white supremacist march in Charlottesville, Virginia, when a car was intentionally driven at high speed into a crowd of counter-protesters, killing a woman. “We try to take a proactive stance to ensure that anyone who comes to the PD is not going to have to worry about that taking place,” he says.
Later that Tuesday, a diverse crowd of hundreds of mostly young protesters peacefully marched to the police station, chanting “George Floyd!” Protests occurred yesterday, as well, as two separate groups marched in a downpour to Sarasota City Hall.
The video of the Sarasota officer’s controversial arrest was taken on May 18. It shows two police officers wrestling 27-year-old Patrick Carroll—who was arrested for unlawful possession of ammunition by a felon and on charges of domestic battery and resisting arrest without violence—to the ground. After the video surfaced, the officer (his name has not been released) who put his knee on Carroll’s neck was immediately put on administrative leave with pay and Police Chief Bernadette DiPino ordered an internal investigation. You can see a redacted version of the police report, obtained by the Sarasota Herald-Tribune, here.
“These things happen in law enforcement, and we’re trying to be as expedient and as transparent as we possibly can,” Robinson said. “We’re committed to making people aware of our actions and trying to mitigate and repair any damage that might have occurred as a result of this video and the actions of the officer.”
Robinson said the police department knew nothing of the incident until being tagged on social media on Monday night. Police departments do not train officers to restrain by kneeling on someone’s neck, he says. “That is not a recognized method of restraint. We do not support that,” he says.