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Orlando officer accused of excessive force awarded department's top prize

An Orlando, Fla., police officer who was accused of excessive force and making a racist comment was named 2018 patrol officer of the year, The Orlando Sentinel reported Tuesday.

Orlando police Chief Orlando Rolón told the newspaper that he is reviewing the selection process for the annual awards after Officer Jonathan Mills was given the accolade.

"We routinely evaluate our policies and procedures and in this specific area, I decided that we need to improve our selection and evaluation process when it comes to awards," he told the newspaper after being questioned about Mills' award. "Going forward, I will be working with my command staff as we go through our awards policies and we will be implementing changes to those policies to ensure that the entire process is beyond reproach."

A spokesperson said the honor, given out in February, will not be rescinded.

The Sentinel reported that the award came one year after he was the subject of two excessive force lawsuits that were settled in February 2017, cases that cost the city of Orlando $130,000.

One case accused Mills of reaching down a man's pants to look for drugs and sexually assaulting him during a 2014 traffic stop. The other involved Mills being accused of slamming a man into the ground for no reason during a 2013 traffic stop.

Mills maintained that he acted appropriately in both cases.

He received an oral reprimand for his conduct during a March 2016 traffic stop where he made comments about a woman's hair that were deemed racist, according to The Sentinel.

Mills was recorded on his body camera telling bragging about how his house was "bigger than these two buildings combined." 

He also is heard telling a black woman, "That hairdo is sad. You've got to get your hair done, girl."

He was found to have violated the department's policy on conduct toward the public, The Sentinel reported.

Then-chief John Mina ordered Mills to attend sensitivity training and reassigned him from the department's elite tactical squad to patrol in February 2017.

Mills was honored for being "the most proactive member of his squad" and being a leader and motivator to squad mates, according to the department's recently released annual report. 

"Ofc. Mills has proved consistently, and throughout the entire year, that he is deserving of this award," the letter written by Sgt. David Baker said. "Ofc. Mills ranks highest in squad stats every month and is the most proactive officer on the Downtown Bikes Day shift squad."

Baker reportedly touted Mill's 100-arrest record, as well as confiscating six handguns, $11,000 in cash and 3.5 pounds of cannabis.

"Ofc. Mills has faced some adversity in his career but never became bitter or disheartened," Baker wrote. "He learned from his past, moved forward and became stronger."

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