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December 20, 2013
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Fla. PD reinstates officer fired over contradicted report

Isaiah Pitts was originally accused of falsifying facts in a police report

By Susannah Bryan
Sun Sentinel

HOLLYWOOD — Officer Isaiah Pitts, terminated seven weeks ago, is rejoining the ranks just in time for Christmas.

Pitts, fired on Oct. 28 for allegedly lying to investigators and falsifying documents related to a police chase, won his job back on Monday after appealing to Police Chief Frank Fernandez and City Manager Cathy Swanson-Rivenbark.

"He's very happy about getting his job back," said union president Jeff Marano. "This is a nice holiday gift for him and his family."

Fernandez said he reconsidered his decision to fire Pitts after the officer and his union attorney presented new information that brought into question whether Pitts had lied about the incident.

"It wasn't a mistake," Fernandez said of the initial decision to terminate. "We gave him the benefit of the doubt."

Marano said Pitts, who was hired in October 2007, did not lie about the incident.

"What he put in the report is what he believes happened," Marano said.

Details about when Pitts, 36, would return to work are still being worked out, said city spokeswoman Raelin Storey.

Instead of termination, Pitts will serve an unpaid suspension but for how long is still being determined, Storey said.

It was unclear Thursday whether Pitts might receive back pay for some of the time he was off the force.

Alexis Cabrera, the teen driver arrested in August 2012, accused both Pitts and backup Officer Aldo Blanco of excessive force. The teen has since been arrested on charges he shot and killed a man in June.

An Internal Affairs investigation cleared Pitts of the excessive force allegation but found that Blanco, 26, had acted improperly.

Surveillance video of the arrest showed Blanco with his left knee on Cabrera's head, police records show. Cabrera, lying face down on the ground, had one hand cuffed and was not resisting.

Even after Cabrera was fully handcuffed, Blanco slammed his right knee into the teen's neck while he was still on the ground.

One minute later, Blanco delivered two right knee spikes to Cabrera's right thigh. The teen was not resisting or posing a threat, police records say.

In June, then-Interim Chief Vince Affanato decided Blanco, who was hired in November 2009, should serve a four-day suspension and undergo more training.

Affanato reduced it to one day after Blanco and his union attorney appealed the 32-hour suspension.

Blanco then appealed to Fernandez. He rescinded the suspension but ordered Blanco to undergo more training.

"He was a relatively new officer who had been involved in a police chase," Storey said. "The chief does consider whether the officer took ownership of his actions. He admitted his actions and took ownership of them. He expressed that he understood that what he had done was in violation of department policy."


McClatchy-Tribune News Service

Copyright 2013 the Sun Sentinel






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