- The Washington Times - Tuesday, July 28, 2015

A Florida police officer is under investigation after a local newspaper obtained jailhouse footage of the cop tossing peanuts into the mouth of a homeless man and reportedly barking “dog commands” at him.

Sarasota Police Chief Bernadette DiPino said she saw video of the July 18 incident on Monday this week when it was published by the Herald-Tribune and then immediately Officer Andrew Halpin on administrative leave pending the results of an internal probe.

Although the footage is absent any audio, Officer Halpin is clearly seen chucking nuts at a handcuffed 44-year-old man who was in the midst of being booked into Sarasota County Jail.

When the officer misses the man’s mouth and the nuts end up on the floor of the booking room, the cop is captured on camera kicking them toward the man with his boot.

Sources familiar with the arrest told the Herald-Tribune that Officer Halpin had been giving the man “dog commands,” and the American Civil Liberties Union said that cop’s “humiliating” conduct should be grounds for termination, NBC News reported.

Unnamed sheriff’s deputies and a Venice police officer were also captured on camera witnessing the incident without intervening and will be investigated as well, the paper reported.

“It’s this kind of egregious conduct that gets Sarasota labeled as the ‘Meanest City in the USA’ towards the homeless,” Michael Barfield, vice president of the Sunshine State’s ACLU branch, told the newspaper. “Florida law allows for enhanced penalties when crimes are committed that show prejudice against the homeless. Instead of wrist-slapping officers, Chief DiPino and the State Attorney’s Office need to send a message that this conduct won’t be tolerated.”

Officer Halpin joined the Sarasota Police Department in 2006, the paper reported. The homeless man has been identified as Randy Miller, and public police records reveal that he was released from police custody on Tuesday this week 10 days after being arrested for trespassing.

City law in Sarasota permits the police to arrest homeless individuals on trespass charges if they are caught sleeping overnight without permission on public or private property. The ACLU filed a lawsuit in 2012 that accused the city of using the trespass ordinance to kick more than 6,200 homeless people out of downtown during a four-year span.

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