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Lakeland PD pulls 3 officers off street; community activists demand criminal charges

“Do the right thing. They need to be arrested,” Pastor Clayton Cowart said.

LAKELAND, Fla. — Community activists in Lakeland are calling for charges to be filed against several Lakeland Police Department officers.

They say the same officers' names have been appearing repeatedly in cases where people were beaten and zapped with stun guns during their arrests. They say it’s not just a pattern — they call it criminal.

And now, we’re learning the department has pulled at least three of those officers off the street.

Members of Black Lives Matters Restoration Polk County and the Poor Minority Justice Association are demanding Lakeland police charge at least three officers with attempted murder, assault and perjury.

“Do the right thing. They need to be arrested,” Pastor Clayton Cowart said. “They need to be held accountable.”

“And it’s a consistent pattern,” Pastor Carl Soto added. “The same names, officers’ names, are being brought up as responsible for these attacks.”

A growing number of people have come forward now. Their arrests have often been captured on video. In some cases, the person in custody is being punched, beaten or repeatedly shot with a Taser.

In many cases, the incidents start with something as simple as a seatbelt traffic stop.

It happened to Armani Evans a little over a year ago. His family says when they tried to complain about the officers’ conduct the department ignored them.

“If these complaints would have been taken seriously on day one, none of these other people would’ve have happened. At all,” said Evans’ mother, Carrie Cline. “Could’ve avoided it. It’s brutality. Police brutality.”

Several people, standing shoulder to shoulder Thursday in front of Lakeland PD, say the same thing had happened to them or a loved one.

On Tuesday, the groups met with Lakeland Police Chief Sam Taylor, who says he watched the video of another incident in December involving a man named Antwan Glover, who says he is filing a civil rights violation case against the department.

The following day Taylor said they decided, “It is prudent to place detective Dylan Cornn, and officers Anton Jefferson and Jason McCain on a modified duty status effective immediately” - taking all three off the street.

Glover called it a beginning.

“They were so quick to bring us up on charges,” Glover said. “Why can’t they be brought up on charges as well?

“We do applaud the chief for his partial accountability, but this is nowhere near the repercussions that need to be taken against these officers for this behavior,” Soto said.

Taylor says the duty status change of the officers taken off the street should not be interpreted as anything other than a modification in their work assignments.

Community activists say they are also reaching out to the Polk State Attorney’s office and to the Department of Justice asking them to conduct their own investigations as well.

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