State attorney candidates talk police misconduct
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