The Orlando Citizens’ Police Review Board continues to push Chief John Mina and Mayor Buddy Dyer to reform OPD through more transparency and accountability to the public, and today the board took major action in several ways. Now, Chief Mina – who is currently also running for Orange County Sheriff – will be forced to possibly take action against his own officers for once and reform his department. Or he will defy the Citizens’ Review Board, further exposing how powerless the people are in Orlando. The board has no actual power under Dyer’s administration, it will ultimately come down to what Mina wants. What will he do? No matter what happens, Mina’s action will no doubt carry political consequences.
First, the board recommended the termination of Officer Robert Schellhorn and rejected the findings of an Internal Affairs investigation calling it “incomplete.” Schellhorn posted racist and offensive comments on social media about athletes kneeling during the national anthem. I also took personal offense to Schellhorn’s comment about Heather Heyer, the 32-year-old woman who was killed while protesting neo-Nazis and white nationalists last year in Virginia. One of my best friends knew Heather Heyer and I could tell she clearly made an impact on many. It was heartbreaking knowing my best friend and her community lost a great young woman. I learned Heather lived her life to help others, to believe in things bigger than herself, and she was clearly nothing short of a great American. Schellhorn said Heyer was “an asshole killed by another asshole.”
How is this person still employed by the Orlando Police Department? How has Mayor Buddy Dyer let this officer continue to carry a badge? This is what Chief John Mina wants to bring to the Orange County Sheriff’s Department?
After citizen complaints, the OPD Internal Affairs investigation into Schellhorn found the social media comments to be “objectively offensive,” but they only slapped Schellhorn’s wrist and suspended him without pay for just 80 hours.
Chief Mina agreed with Schellhorn’s discipline, though he did try to express his shame and embarrassment at the time. “No one is more ashamed or embarrassed by the conduct and statements of Officer Schellhorn as I am as the leader of this agency,” Mina said.
That was not good enough at the time, and it is not good enough now. If that’s how he really feels, Chief Mina should uphold the recommendation of the Orlando Citizens’ Police Review Board and terminate Officer Robert Schellhorn from the Orlando Police Department. Let’s see how ashamed and embarrassed Mina really is about all of this. Then again, Mina did not even show up to the review board meeting.
The review board went further than the recommendation of termination. The board is also recommending Chief Mina review official policy and institute a zero tolerance policy for any officer or OPD employee who exhibits intolerance against racial or minority groups. The review board wants Mina to adopt a policy that will warrant termination, like the current recommendation against Schellhorn, in any future instances. They also called on Chief Mina and OPD to report all citizen complaints to the review board, a practice that is not currently happening which raises major questions about transparency and accountability to the public. At the very least, Mina must make major changes within OPD.
Schellhorn displayed himself online as nothing short of disgusting, ignorant and not worthy of holding any position of authority. It’s a reflection of Mina’s department. The Orlando Citizens’ Police Review Board took meaningful action today, but now the pressure shifts to Chief Mina to reform his department, hopefully before he seeks another.