Orlando police officer Peter Rocco Delio probably figured he was untouchable when he rushed into a jail cell and kneed a handcuffed man in the abdomen, then picked him up and dropped him on the cell floor, where the inmate remained doubled-over in pain for several long minutes, crying out for medical help, only to be ignored, mocked and laughed by cops outside the cell, including Delio’s sergeant who tauntingly took photos of him on the floor.
At that time, it didn’t really matter to them that their actions were being recorded by a surveillance camera. They didn’t expect the local media to check out the video. But more on that later.
Delio, for PINAC veterans, is the same cop who arrested a man in 2013 for video recording in public, seizing the man’s phone as “evidence,” before locking him up for 15 hours, keeping the phone for another three weeks until he was forced to return it.
The man in that case, Alberto Troche, filed a lawsuit, settling in December for $15,000. Part of the settlement required the Orlando Police Department to draft a photo policy explaining to their officers that photography is not a crime, which they did in April 2014, but that policy was violated last January when PINAC’s Jeff Gray was arrested after taking pictures outside the police department.
But Delio, who was hired in 2008, racking up a long string of complaints against him since then, was able to retain his job as bad cops usually do. In a department where cops are frequently charged for crimes, Delio was just another arrogant face in an arrogant agency.
So he probably wasn’t too worried when Robert Liese, the 41-year-old man whom Delio kneed in the stomach, forcing a removal of his spleen, filed a lawsuit suit in February 2015, even if the lawsuit did lead to the cop being suspended without pay for a week.
Judging by his mugshot, that condescending smirk he is known for was gone, only to be replaced by that angry glare he is also known for. But this time, he was powerless to attack the photographer.
Delio, who is still employed by the department, pleaded not guilty on Tuesday, claiming that he kneed Liese, rupturing his spleen, to prevent the man from hurting himself. You know, the old “safety” excuse, which is really about control.
Liese, after all, who had been arrested for skipping out on a $6o bar tab, had slammed his head against a glass pane in the cell, breaking it, which is what angered Delio.
But bad cops are usually a result of bad leadership, which is why Delio’s supervisor, Sergeant Michael Faulkner, is now under investigation. And we have an Orlando television news station to thank for that.
During an investigation, WFTV-9 discovered Faulkner had lied in reports when he claimed that Liese was offered medical assistance, but refused it.
The truth was, Liese begged for medical assistance, but Faulker flat-out told him “no,” using his cell phone to take photos of him instead, which he no doubt shared with all his cop buddies, who probably also had a good laugh.
According to WFTV-9:
Orlando police Sgt. Michael Faulkner’s interaction with theft suspect Robert Liese was recorded by his department’s camera in a holding cell.
The recording shows Liese asked Faulkner for medical treatment after he was kneed in the abdomen by Officer Peter Delio in March. Liese had to have his spleen removed.
Liese: “Can I have medical attention please?”
Faulkner: “What do you need medical attention for?”
Delio was charged with felony battery.
The video shows Liese ask for paramedics for more than 20 times in more than 90 minutes.
But under oath, Faulkner told OPD’s internal affairs that Liese repeatedly refused medical treatment.
Channel 9’s Kathi Belich first exposed inconsistencies in Faulkner’s statements.
She brought her findings to state investigators to ask if they’re looking into it and they referred her back to Orlando police.
The department later said it would investigate.
“There’s more than enough evidence to open up a criminal and professional standards investigation as to whether or not this officer lied under oath,” said WFTV legal analyst Bill Sheaffer. “The video tells the tale and on the video we see that this defendant repeatedly asked for medical attention. It’s not a matter of ‘Do we just take his word for it?'”
So hats off to Belich and her news station.
Granted, WFTV’s motivation to investigate the inconsistencies within the Orlando Police Department, publishing their findings this week, had to do with May ratings periods, which kicked off Thursday. Just in case you’re wondering why so many television news stations from around the country have suddenly decided to shine a light into police abuse this week.
But it paid off for the station because they edged out other local stations on Thursday.
So hopefully, news stations will get the message and continue their investigations into local police departments rather than pander to them as NBC Los Angeles did this week in the case of the U.S. Marshal snatching a phone from a woman recording them, before smashing it to the ground.
As for the Orlando Police Department, it needs to be investigated from all angles because with three current cops and one former cop awaiting trial on abuse charges – not to mention a $4.5 million lawsuit filed this month by a 56-year-old woman whose leg was broken by a cop – as well as the suit Jeff Gray will be filing soon, it is obvious they are nothing but a uniformed crime family.