A former juvenile detention center officer was cleared of all charges by the prosecutor who ruled the officer was justified in striking a 14-year old in the face, breaking his nose in two places in order to “subdue” him.
The incident occurred in February 2017, when Darell Bryant slammed and punched minor Andrew Ostrovsky in Broward Regional Juvenile Detention Center. Prosecutor Christopher Killoran found Bryant "was justified in his use of force and his actions that day,” in a “close-out” memo.
Andrew was charged with driving his father’s vehicle without permission in January 2017. The minor was five-feet, six inches tall and weighed 120 pounds at the time of the arrest.
Bryant told a Fort Lauderdale detective the incident occurred when Andrew got into a fight with another detainee and did not listen to the officer’s commands to “calm down.” The report said Bryant “redirected” Andrew onto the floor, when he slammed down the minor.
A video obtained by Miami Herald showed the officer slamming the minor into the wall and then the floor after an altercation took place. Other detainees can also be seen in the footage.
The prosecutors concluded Florida law allowed Bryant to use force to contain the minor.
"Based upon Bryant being an authority figure at the facility whose mandate is to control the juvenile detainees, when certain situations arise, for instance when one detainee is attempting to attack another, an employee must utilize force to gain compliance," the memo said.
There is no record to support that prosecutors ever interviewed Andrew to learn his side of the story. The close-out memo also indicated the findings by the State Attorney's Office were not discussed with Andrew’s father, Uri Ostrovsky.
The Department of Juvenile Justice (DJJ) found upon investigation that Andrew had complained to the officers about another detainee who kept “talking junk to him.” Andrew told the DJJ Bryant advised him to “hit [the] youth when no one is looking."
Andrew’s claim might be shocking however, it is not uncommon. Several other detained youths have complained juvenile officers usually entice them to fight with each other in return for honey buns and sweets; the fight that follows for the treat is often termed as “honey-bunnings.”
However, the DJJ report on the incident does not detail the practice and Andrew is never quoted on the recently released close out memo exonerating Bryant.
The DJJ’s report on the incident was quite different from the ruling, who concluded “excessive” force was indeed used by Bryant, who later resigned from the job. The agency also made sure to convey that although Bryant was pardoned, the DJJ does not tolerate the behavior exerted by the officer at the time.
“The Florida Department of Juvenile Justice has approved physical interventions to deescalate crisis situations in our facilities and programs. These interventions do not allow for the physical assault of youth to gain compliance. While we recognize the state attorney has discretion in determining whether to proceed with criminal charges, DJJ does not condone nor tolerate this type of behavior," said DJJ Secretary Christina K. Daly.
Gordon Weekes, Broward County's chief assistant public defender, who represented Andrew in court, called out the memo for not reflecting facts the way they were.
"The message this sends to children at the facility — and the message it sends to staffers and guards at the facility — is that we will protect officers who cross the line, hurt children and beat children up, even when these acts are captured on video," Weekes said.
Andrew’s father also complained of disparity when neither he nor his son was interviewed before the decision was made by the prosecutors.
"They never interviewed me," Ostrovsky said. "They never interviewed him. It's wrong. They are trying to cover it up. I am mad. I am really mad,” he said.
"They gave permission to abuse children," the angry parent added.
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