A Miami prison officer was charged with battery and failure to report a use of force, both misdemeanors, after slapping a handcuffed inmate in the back of the head.
Reinaldo Palenzuela, 28, was a prison officer for three years. He resigned from the Everglades Correctional Institution in July 2019.
According to a press release, in the incident, inmate Travis Whyte was instructed to move to a corner of a dorm at the prison in South Miami-Dade. An investigation found that Whyte “complied with these instructions,” but Palenzuela still slapped him in the back of the head.
“The force of the slap was such that it allegedly could be heard and seen on Correctional Department camera footage taken from the adjoining room,” according to the press release.
Miami-Dade State Attorney Katherine Fernandez Rundle announced Palenzuela’s charges while speaking to the Miami-Dade County Commission Tuesday to discuss bringing back an oversight panel to review complaints against police officers.
“There can never be an excuse for an officer abusing his authority,” Fernandez Rundle said in a statement, according to The Miami Herald. “I believe that there is sufficient evidence to prove beyond a reasonable doubt the charges filed today.”
This is just one in a series of cases where officers punched, slapped, and kicked suspects in South Florida.
Fernandez Rundle’s record with police-misconduct cases has been under the spotlight in the wake of the George Floyd murder as protestors have pointed out that her office has never charged an officer for an on-duty shooting.
But as more video surfaced showing officers using excessive force, Fernandez Rundle’s office has been more aggressive about charging cops with assault and battery recently.