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Florida officer fired for alleged physical harassment, taunting colleague for fears of COVID-19

Florida officer fired for alleged physical harassment, taunting colleague for fears of COVID-19
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A Florida police officer has been fired after allegedly mocking a female co-worker’s concerns on the spread of COVID-19 and hugging her against her will. 

According to a review of the case obtained by the Orlando Sentinel, the Longwood Police Department found that Cpl. David Hernandez was “not fully forthcoming and not truthful” about allegations from his co-worker during an investigation on the July incident.  

Police Chief David Dowda wrote in his review that after Hernandez allegedly approached the woman to give her a hug, the employee told Hernandez not to touch her and then “physically backed away” and “crossed her arms.” 

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“This was more than sufficient indication for you to know to stop trying to embrace her; however you ignored her comments and moments later embraced her,” Dowda added. 

The employee, who was not identified by name, filed a complaint against Hernandez, in which she said that he “disregarded her verbal instruction not to touch her, and then embraced her against her will.”

Local NBC affiliate WESH reported that at one point the woman struggled to free herself from Hernandez, causing her to injure her finger and back.

According to the Sentinel, the report added that Hernandez subsequently kept “taunting her with comments about her being afraid of contracting COVID-19,” and also touched her personal items while joking that he did not have the virus. 

Dowda added that Hernandez initially denied hugging the woman, which conflicted with reports "provided by the complainant and corroborated by the witnesses,” adding that Hernandez also withheld certain details regarding the July incident when he was first interviewed by investigators. 

The Sentinel reported that there was currently no criminal investigation being pursued based on a specific request from the woman who filed the complaint. 

Hernandez, who according to a 2020 Facebook post had been with the police department since 2005, is now entitled to an arbitration hearing at which he can appeal his firing, WESH and the Sentinel reported. 

Florida, one of the states that became one of the largest U.S. coronavirus hotspots in the early months of the pandemic, has had more than 1.7 million recorded coronavirus infections and more than 27,000 fatalities as a result of the virus, according to the state’s health department.