PRINT: Racial profiling, sexual harassment among FAUPD complaints in 2019-2020 school year

There were ten complaints filed against the FAUPD in the 2019-2020 school year. What does this mean, and what can students do?


Illustration by J.R. Pfeiffer.

Joseph Acosta, Business Manager

Editor’s note: This story is in the UP’s latest issue that can be found digitally through our Issuu page.

The FAU Police Department has had their share of complaints and compliments filed to their office. In the 2019-2020 school year, the campus community filed ten complaints against their officers alleging issues from unprofessionalism to sexual harassment and racial profiling.

Blue Lives Matter is a countermovement to Black Lives Matter that supports police officers in the US, often to attack Black Lives Matter. Blue Lives Matter sees the police as the “thin blue line” between the community they protect and lawlessness.


Of the ten complaints, seven were determined unfounded by internal investigations done by the department, meaning police deemed there weren’t enough facts or evidence necessary to continue with the investigation.

One such case involved an officer who was accused by a complainant of racial profiling and making an unlawful arrest. The police department’s internal investigation on the incident found evidence of “dating violence” but no unethical behavior or racial profiling. In a case from October of 2019, an officer “adjusted his belt while staring at a female employee” according to the complaint. The officer later retired for what the university called medical reasons, according to records obtained by the University Press via a public records request.

One sustained complaint was among the records obtained, which meant that the complaint would be upheld and an investigation would take place. An officer was not wearing his Body-Worn Camera (BWC) when investigating a complaint on a bus used to transport students to Universal Studios in April 2020. According to the report, the officer was later counseled by the department for not activating the camera.

Seth Stoughton, a law professor at the University of South Carolina and former officer in the Tallahassee Police Department, said in an email that the use of body cameras hasn’t severely affected the day-to-day workings of an officer. “They have one more piece of equipment that they need to keep charged (like their radios and flashlights). They need to remember to turn it on and off, and to upload and log the videos. These are relatively minor, mostly administrative changes,” Stoughton said.

Stoughton did note that how officers go about their jobs is a “complicated” matter. “BWCs have different effects at different agencies, because each agency is different. A well-run agency that has a well-trained, well-supervised workforce isn’t going to see as much improvement as a less well-run agency because there is simply less room for marginal improvement,” he said.

According to FAUPD Police Chief Sean Brammer, all university officers should turn on their body cameras “as soon as they step out of their vehicle.” Officers began wearing body cameras in 2015, but professors at the university’s College of Criminology and Criminal Justice helped develop the existing policy with Chief Brammer when he was officially promoted to chief in 2017. Brammer served as interim chief in 2016.

“Accountability is predicated on being able to indentify what an agency is doing well and where it needs to improve,” says Seth Stoughton.

Brammer said that if an officer doesn’t have their camera on, they are subject to internal discipline and have violated department policy. Brammer said that if there is a case dealing with the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA), a federal law meant to discourage the disclosure of sensitive health information to the public, then officers use alternate methods to accurately get statements from victims.

FAU Police Chief Sean Brammer looks on as students protest racial inequality in September 2020. Photo by Alex Liscio.

“[Officers] will have a handwritten or a voice-recorded statement taken from the victim, so that we can have their statement documented as to what happened during the incident, just for privacy rights,” Brammer said.

If anyone would like to file a complaint, the police department has a form to do so on their website. People are also free to walk into the department and a supervisor will file a complaint on their behalf.

When a complaint hits his desk, Brammer decides whether there will be an internal investigation, or if the office will go through what is called a “preliminary inquiry,” which determines the nature of the complaint.

The FAUPD handles all complaints sent accusing the department of wrongdoing, Brammer said. In an amendment to the Florida Officers’ Bill of Rights Law, a document used to ensure certain rights for officers and law enforcement, external agencies can handle investigations if the police department requests it. “If I feel that there’s a situation where we need other transparency, then I’ll bring in an external agency for them to investigate,” said Brammer.

FAUPD Thin Blue Line Policy

FAU Police Sgt. Michael Marzigliano wore a Blue Lives Matter Flag on his uniform, in a photo posted on Dec. 2, 2020 by the FAUPD.

In Nov. 2020, a Twitter account representing the university’s police department posted photos of officers participating in “No Shave November” on Twitter, to raise awareness for cancer patients who lose their hair in the treatment process. In these photos, police Sgt. Michael Marzigliano wore a Blue Lives Matter flag on his uniform.

Chief Brammer said that while his department does not have a policy against wearing Blue Lives Matter memorabilia, there are “restrictive policies” on what officers can wear on their uniforms.

“We don’t allow anything outside of the uniform that we give for officers to wear on their uniforms,” he said.

In the state of Florida, there have been many cases of the Blue Lives Matter flag causing controversy. Last summer, the New Port Richey’s Homeowners Association told a former sheriff’s deputy in Orlando to remove a Blue Lives Matter flag from his property.

Last June, Sheriff’s Capt. Ryan Brown banned Sarasota County deputies from wearing Blue Lives Matter memorabilia while on duty, citing, “unique times,” and “always maintaining professionalism.”

When asked about the perception of the “thin blue line,” Chief Brammer said that to police properly, there is no room for the “us vs. them mentality” that the flag and mantra have come to hold. “It’s all about inclusion,” he said.

Graphic made by Michelle Rodriguez Gonzalez.

What can students do?

Stoughton said that one of the ways students can hold their campus police department accountable is to understand the structure of their campus police agency and to get information about what the agency is doing. “Accountability is predicated on being able to identify what an agency is doing well and where it needs to improve. This requires transparency,” Stoughton said. He also added that students and faculty should provide community feedback to their agency as well.

Adam Dobrin, a criminology professor in FAU’s College of Criminal Justice, believes that students should pay attention to more than one side of the story when it comes to the way in which police interactions are portrayed. “A lot of media portrayal in some of these events is limited, and when the full video comes out, it’s not quite the story the media is presenting,” Dobrin said.

Dobrin’s best suggestion, however, is for students to become volunteers in the police department. “If you really want to affect change, step into the arena yourself,” he said. “Be a bridge between the community and the police.”

Joseph Acosta is the Business Manager of the FAU University Press. For more information regarding this story or any other stories, email at [email protected], or tweet him @acosta32_jp.