Back in 2012, a 73-year-old security guard named Earl Brown working the midnight shift at a South Florida meat processing plant spotted a prowler trying to steal junk metal off the property, so he called police, hoping they would come and arrest the man.
They ended up shooting and killing him instead.
But even though Lauderhill police officers Mathew Maquire, Ryan Pearlman and Edward McCormick were placed on paid administrative leave, they didn’t appear to be too worried judging from the above photo they posted on Facebook two weeks later.
And why should they have been worried?
They all ended up back at work where they won several departmental awards in the ensuing years, even as the city of Lauderhill ended up paying $300,000 to Brown’s widow, which of course, meant the cops did not have to admit to wrongdoing.
The awards were mundane. Petty little plaques for doing their jobs, including a marijuana bust, a burglary response, a traffic stop leading to a crack arrest. Not much different than the awards given out to school children to build confidence.
According to the Broward New Times:
But when Lauderhill Police Officers Matthew Maguire, Ryan Pearlman, and Edward McCormick arrived on the scene, they saw the elderly Brown, a black man, and ordered him to put his hands up. As Brown complied, McCormick noticed Brown had a gun — which was legal and a tool for his work — and shot him. The other officers joined in, firing several bullets at Brown, who fell to the pavement in a pool of his own blood.
“I am a security guard,” Brown gasped, according to court documents. But neither his pleas nor his injury won him any sympathy from the officers he called for help. The fourth cop on the scene, Antonio Sparks, handcuffed Brown and dragged his bullet-riddled body across the street. Brown would die in the hospital days later.
Each of the officers involved in Brown’s death were recognized several times for “Impressive Work” in 2013 for mundane police tasks like arresting people for marijuana.
Pearlman (the third cop to shoot Brown, who by then had already suffered bullet wounds and likely couldn’t have posed a threat if he wanted to) was given five “Impressive Work” nods, the most of any Lauderhill officer in 2013.
Pearlman’s “impressive work” involved making two burglary arrests, arresting somebody for 300 grams of pot, arresting another for an undisclosed amount of crack during a traffic stop, and making four arrests while on “tactical bike patrol.”
McCormick (the first to shoot Brown) was also awarded for two burglary arrests he made with Pearlman. But the “impressive work” didn’t stop there. McCormick and Sparks (who handcuffed and dragged the dying, elderly Brown) were given awards for responding to a burglary at Lauderhill Middle School on August 5, 2013.McCormick was also recognized for arresting a person who had seven cell phones and an “iPod of unknown origin.” It’s not clear what law was broken from the description of McCormick’s “impressive work” in this instance.
Maguire (the second officer to shoot Brown) also won “impressive work” recognition for two burglary calls in 2013.
For those of us who follow police work as we do, it is common knowledge that police departments regularly hand out awards for doing their jobs. In fact, Miami-Dade Police Major Nancy Perez received an award along with dozens of other cops from the night I was arrested for documenting the Occupy Miami eviction in 2012.
Awards are important because they allow police to hype up an officer’s value if he or she ever makes the news for questionable or abusive behavior. After all, how many “officer of the year” winners have we seen end up arrested?
Or in this case, the awards allowed the Lauderhill Police Department to hype up the killer cops before the case goes before the grand jury, which last month found no wrong doing on their part.
Or take the case of Broward sheriff deputy Peter Peraza, who shot and killed a man named Jermaine McBean who had been walking around with an air rifle while wearing headphones in 2013.
Witnesses say McBean never pointed the rifle at Peraza. In fact, he may not have even heard Peraza yelling orders to him because of his headphones.
But Peraza claimed that McBean pointed the rifle at him in a “threatening manner.” He also claimed that McBean was not wearing headphones, so there was no reason that he did not hear him.
And two months later, he received an award for bravery after his supervisor wrote that he shot him only because he was “fearing for the lives of all involved.”
However, a recent photo emerged of McBean after he was shot showing headphones in his ear, proving that deputies falsified reports in justifying the killing – not that they will ever get punished for it.
So perhaps it’s time to award cops for what they truly excel in; creative writing.