JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – The beating of a handcuffed woman by a Jacksonville police officer that caught national attention last year has spurred a lawsuit that the woman's attorney said will expose an unacceptable culture within the Jacksonville Sheriff's Office that runs from the top down.
That beating was caught by JSO's own surveillance cameras, and the officer who hit her, Akinyemi Borisade, was fired and charged with misdemeanor assault. He pleaded no contest and adjudication was withheld, meaning if he keeps himself out of trouble, he won't have a permanent criminal record.
Martinez's attorney, John Phillips, filed a lawsuit Friday against the city, the sheriff's office and Borisade on her behalf. The suit is critical of Sheriff Mike Williams, blaming him for tolerating what it calls a pattern of illegal excessive force in the department.
“There are a lot of things, we think, in the Jacksonville Sheriff's policies, that need to be readdressed, and if it needs to be done through a civil lawsuit, so be it,” Phillips said.
In the lawsuit Phillips said that by not properly investigating such incidents, it sends a message to officers that excessive force is OK, which leads to even more incidents.
When Borisade was interviewed by the Integrity Unit, he was asked if officers are allowed to hit suspects in handcuffs, and he answered, “Yes,” according to the lawsuit.
Phillips cited the number of JSO officers arrested in recent years as evidence of a problem.
Handcuffed woman beaten
Martinez was at her first day of work at Scores, an adult club on University Boulevard near Philips Highway, when she refused to leave and police were called.
Officers said she was drunk and that when they tried to take her into custody, she resisted. Her violent arrest in the parking lot, which involved a take down and hog tying, was caught on camera.
Borisade later shoved Martinez against a wall in the sally port and after she appeared to try to kick at him, he struck her several times while she was still handcuffed, knocking her out cold. She was taken down a third time that day when officers tried to remove a nose ring from her face. Both those incidents were also caught on tape.
“There was a use of force here that was wildly inappropriate,” Phillips said. “Cameras don’t lie, so to speak.”
He said Martinez's case points to what he called internal problems that allowed abuses to occur.
Three other officers who watched the sally port assault are also named in the lawsuit, which Philips said will ask the city about its policies and procedures.
“For instance, some of the officers said, 'The cameras, the cameras. Don’t punch her because of the cameras.' Well, just don't punch her,” Phillips said. “Don’t punch because there may be evidence of it? That is wrong.”
Martinez, who now lives in Orlando, suffered permanent injuries from the beating and now suffers from Post Traumatic Stress Disorder, Phillips said.
The Sheriff's Office said it can't comment on pending litigation, but Williams said previously that his department did a fast, appropriate investigation, released the tapes of the incidents and fired Borisade.
Phillips resigns commission
Earlier this week, Phillips resigned as commissioner of the Jacksonville Human Rights Commission, a board that investigates discrimination in employment and housing practices in the city.
He cited the culture of excessive force among JSO officers as one of his reasons for stepping down from the board, which he said has not been given the diversity or power to fulfill its mission to “to create an environment where harmony, unity and equality abounds” in Jacksonville.
“I am in a precarious place, being sworn to protect the human rights in the city of Jacksonville when the city of Jacksonville violated human rights, and there is no double standard when it comes to my office,” Phillips said.
Phillips, a Republican appointed to the board by Mayor Lenny Curry, sent the mayor a resignation letter Tuesday.
He said he has no issue with other members of the board, but he questions the current direction of the commission.
“The commission as unfortunately taking a turn toward less diversity by no fault of the commission, just by the nature of appointments, so we were already seeing a more conservative agenda,” Phillips said.
Phillips said the fact that the new chairman will be a former JSO officer is also a concern, but he believes it's best to step down right now and not try to fight the issues from within.