Orlando, FL — Orlando Police Department’s Jonathan Mills was named the Officer of the Year in 2018. This award was given to him despite his extremely tainted history. Before this award, he was verbally warned for an accusation of racism in 2016, and was hit with an excessive force lawsuit in 2017—and they still named him officer of the year!
To stave off the fury of citizens calling for accountability, the department announced this month that they ‘disciplined’ Mills. Exactly what this ‘discipline’ consisted of remains a mystery.
This ‘discipline’ spawned from an incident with three teenagers outside an Orlando liqueur store in which he tried to provoke them into violence. The three teenagers, aged 17, 19, and 19, had already been approached by another officer in Parramor and told to take a hike. But instead of leaving, the kids hung around, prompting Mills to come and initiate a second police contact.
Once Mills arrived on scene he began to speak to the teenagers in a way which was not according to the “high standards” of the OPD. Following an internal investigation of the incident which took place in May, the OPD concluded Mills attempted to “taunt, belittle, humiliate and even incite … violence” against the teenagers.
The three teenagers were arrested for disorderly contact but one of the parents was successful in filing a complaint against Mills. The complaint led to an internal investigation which reviewed the body camera footage of the incident in question. Mills can be seen and heard grabbing the hands of one of the teenagers and remarking:
[t]hese soft hands have been through something. You have no marks on your knuckles, you’ve never been in a fight.
The Officer of the Year also appeared to taunt one teenager into running from the police, presumably as a threat that if he did he would be able to escalate his use of force against the teenager. He told the kids:
I hope he runs.
When Mills saw one teenager talking quietly on the cell phone he took the kid’s phone and tossed it to the ground. Mike Stanley of OPD’s internal affairs wrote in his findings Mills’ actions were not reflective of the police department’s code of conduct. He stated:
[Mills’ actions were] not representative of the high standards of the professional conduct expected from members of the Orlando Police Department.
Stanley noted all three teenagers were detained and seated on the ground when Mills made his statements. He also dismissed Mills’ explanations as to why he said what he said. Stanley wrote:
[The teenagers were] detained and seated on the ground in a position of disadvantage…[and his comments were meant] only … to taunt, belittle, humiliate and even incite a person to do violence.
In Mills’ police report the officer claimed the teenagers placed their bicycles on the sidewalk which impeded foot traffic but Stanley noted after the teenagers were detained it was the cops who put the bikes on the sidewalk and left them there for quite some time. He wrote:
[The sidewalk was] completely blocked by the placement of the bicycles by the officers which was the reason for the initial stop.
All charges were dropped against two of the teenagers arrested in the incident and no further information is available at this time as to why the charges remain against the final teenager involved who is apparently a minor. Mills, even though he won the Officer of the Year award in 2018, is no stranger to controversy and was the subject of excessive force lawsuits and at least one lawsuit against the city by a motorist who claimed Mills treated her with racism during a traffic stop.
But that is not all. In one case, a man alleged Mills reached down the back of his pants and sexually assaulted him while looking for drugs during a 2014 traffic stop. The man settled for $80,000, documents show. In the other, another man accused Mills of slamming him to the ground for no reason during an October 2013 traffic stop. He received $50,000, according to the city.
Going forward, OPD has decided to amend its Officer of the Year qualifications saying a future candidate must not have any below standard ratings in his/her reviews. According to the Orlando Sentinal, Mills was given the Officer of the Year award for “making more than 100 arrests and confiscating numerous guns and drugs in 2018.”
It is almost certain many of those arrests will now be under review following the controversial findings of the OPD’s internal investigation. The report did not mention how Mills was disciplined or reprimanded. This usually means the officer was given administrative leave for a period of time which is likened to a paid vacation by police accountability activists.