A Tampa Police officer taunted and cursed at a group of bystanders during a narcotics arrest in Ybor Heights in June 2022, with footage from a body-worn camera showing him following and hurling insults at a group of residents as they walked away.
The Tampa Police Department later issued a written reprimand to Officer Dukagjin Maxhuni, a 10-year veteran of the department, and moved him to a different district. But the head of the Hillsborough County branch of the NAACP said the footage raises questions about how the Tampa Police Department holds its officers accountable for negative interactions with the Black community.
The June 23, 2022, video, which was released publicly this week after the Tampa Bay Times requested it, shows Maxhuni getting out of a car in front of Ybor Grocery at the corner of North 15th Street and East 26th Avenue to chase a suspect. Maxhuni cut off the suspect, a young Black person, between the store and a car, knocking the person to the ground. Other officers swarmed the suspect.
“You f--king broke my glasses you piece of s--t,” Maxhuni said before turning around and walking toward a crowd of onlookers, most of whom appear to be Black.
“That was one hell of a flying knee from me, guys!” Maxhuni shouted at them. He told them that the suspect had been caught and said, “You should have seen it, it was good. It’s on body camera, I’ll show it to you. It was awesome.”
Some people in the group seemingly shouted in Maxhuni’s direction. He turned and started following the crowd as people walked away.
“Hey, hey, you’re not going to do anything,” Maxhuni said as he followed the crowd across the street. He repeated, “What are you gonna do?” several times as he walked toward people, with other officers also walking toward the crowd and shouting. “You wanna be a tough guy? Come talk to me now,” Maxhuni said. “You little bitch boy.”
“Hey come stand up to me, I’m standing right here, motherf---er,” Maxhuni said. “Motherf---ers, you should know who runs these f----ing streets, and it ain’t you all.”
He then walked back across the street to a crowd of fellow officers and boasted about the flying knee again.
The Tampa Police Department said in a statement to the Times that Maxhuni violated the department’s standards of conduct and also violated “courtesy to the public” rules that dictate how officers should interact with citizens.
“These actions and statements were in direct contradiction with the established tenets and mission of the Tampa Police Department,” the department said, adding that Maxhuni was investigated after an internal audit found the incident. A spokesperson for the department confirmed Maxhuni received a written reprimand and was transferred to District 1, which covers South Tampa and downtown, and currently works on a street anti-crime squad.
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The police department showed the body cam video to Yvette Lewis, president of the Hillsborough County branch of the NAACP, on Tuesday, ahead of releasing the footage to the Tampa Bay Times, even though she hadn’t requested it. The Times had requested the video on Aug. 2 and received it late Tuesday after raising questions about why it was being shared with others.
Lewis confirmed she saw the video on Tuesday and said police told her they wanted her to see it before it was given to the news organization.
“Tampa police take an oath to serve and protect not to degrade and humiliate,” Lewis wrote in an email. “There is no excuse for this police officer’s tune, attitude and demeanor toward the innocent people.”
Lewis said that the officer’s behavior pushes back the work that her organization has done to bridge the gap between the Black community and Tampa police.
“Most importantly, Maxhuni cannot be trusted to work in the African American community,” Lewis wrote. “I question the leadership at Tampa Police Department. Why is he still working there?”