State at­tor­ney can­di­dates talk po­lice mis­con­duct

Orlando Sentinel - - Local & State - By Jeff Weiner

The Democrats vy­ing to be­come state at­tor­ney for Orange and Osce­ola coun­ties agree: Sim­ple mar­i­juana pos­ses­sion should rarely, if ever, be pros­e­cuted. De­fen­dants shouldn’t lose their driv­ing priv­i­leges be­cause they can’t pay court costs. Manda­tory min­i­mum sen­tences are bad.

But while Belvin Perry, Deb­o­rah Barra, Ryan Wil­liams and Monique Wor­rell were broadly aligned on most is­sues, they drew fine dis­tinc­tions on some top­ics, in­clud­ing the use of cash bail and their pri­or­i­ties if elected.

Each also tried to make the case as be­ing best-suited to tackle the is­sue of the mo­ment: po­lice mis­con­duct and bru­tal­ity, which has been in the spot­light since the Min­neapo­lis killing of Ge­orge Floyd dur­ing an ar­rest last month prompted protests across the coun­try.

On that topic, Perry noted that he as a cir­cuit judge in 1993 sen­tenced an Ea­tonville po­lice of­fi­cer, who had been caught steal­ing while on cases, to 10 years in prison — the max­i­mum al­lowed by law.

Barra and Wil­liams both also touted their roles in pros­e­cut­ing po­lice ac­cused of mis­con­duct — in­clud­ing a case suc­cess­fully pros­e­cuted by Wil­liams in which Barra was a key wit­ness: the per­jury case against for­mer Win­der­mere po­lice chief Daniel Say­lor.

Wor­rell, who has worked in pros­e­cu­tion and de­fense, said hav­ing rep­re­sented vic­tims of po­lice vi­o­lence gave her a fuller per­spec­tive on the prob­lem.

“While I hear my op­po­nents stat­ing about the sin­gu­lar cases that they can point to that they may have been in­volved in the pros­e­cu­tion and sen­tenc­ing of of­fi­cers, I know that it hap­pens much more fre­quently than… the two or three cases that were men­tioned,” she said.

She and Wil­liams stressed the need to in­ter­vene early with of­fi­cers who com­mit mis­con­duct, be­fore it es­ca­lates to “mur­der.”

Wil­liams has been en­dorsed by the local lodges of the Fra­ter­nal Or­der of Po­lice. He said that came de­spite him hav­ing “pros­e­cuted some of their own mem­bers.” They backed him any­way, he said, be­cause they know “I will do the right thing.”

Barra said her top pri­or­i­ties would be tar­get­ing cor­rup­tion in gov­ern­ment, in­clud­ing through grand jury in­ves­ti­ga­tions; cre­at­ing a di­ver­sion pro­gram for traf­fic of­fenses and crack­ing down on hu­man traf­fick­ing. Cen­tral Florida, she said, is “es­sen­tially a mecca of that.”

Wor­rell said she would fo­cus on “hu­man­iz­ing the of­fender,” de­fer­ring to treat­ment for dru­gad­dicted de­fen­dants. She also said she would en­sure chil­dren ac­cused of crimes are treated “like chil­dren.”

Perry’s first pri­or­ity was

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