George Floyd would still be alive if there had been a cop at the scene in Minneapolis like Police Officer Krystle Smith of Fort Lauderdale.
Smith would have almost certainly also stepped in to save the life of Eric Garner in New York. And there is no telling how many instances of police brutality would have been prevented elsewhere had Smith been present.
In every instance, Smith could have been expected to respond just as she did in her hometown on Sunday. That was when she saw an angry Police Officer Steven Pohorence striding toward a 19-year-old girl who had gone down on not just one knee, but two.
The two knees signaled surrender, not protest. She had also raised both her hands to signal further that she intended to be as peaceful as the whole march had been as it wound through downtown Fort Lauderdale and now came to a stop between two parking structures.
She had become alarmed after Pohorence began having words with a male protester at the edge of the crowd. The protester backed up. Pohorence advanced. The protester backed up further. Poherence advanced further.
“Don’t touch him! Don’t touch him!” people called out.
Pohorence would have been right to assume that any physical action he took against the protester would be recorded on cellphone video. He stopped and turned back, fury-faced.
The kneeling teen with the upraised hands was now in front of him. Maybe he simply ignored her signal of peaceful intent. Or maybe it just further incensed him.
Smith saw what was coming. She started over, her arms outstretched.
Smith still was a half step away when Pohorence reached down and roughly pushed the teen over. The teen pitched face first onto the pavement.
In the very next moment, Smith shoved Pohorence away. And she kept after him, propelling him further and further from the crowd.
Pohorence stopped and turned as if to say something, maybe even challenge Smith. She raised her right arm and extended her index finger in a gesture that said, Go on, get out of here.
Poheorence turned away, as most bullies do when challenged. Smith was later praised by Fort Lauderdale Police Chief Rick Maglione, but his syntax was too tortured to be the forthright praise she deserved. He spoke as if she had only been doing what is expected.
“She did what you are supposed to do: When you see either adrenaline or emotion or some kind of interaction going south, that is our job to do, is intervene,” he was quoted saying.
Maglione failed to note that what Smith did is all too rare. Cellphone video of Pohorence shoving over the teen surfaced and he was suspended. His personnel file is about what you would expect. He had been involved in 79 situations in which he used force during his three and a half years with the department.
Smith’s file describes her as an ideal police officer.
“She can be compassionate to persons needing assistance, and also be a command presence with persons engaged in disruptive or illegal activity when necessary,” a 2019 evaluation by her immediate supervisor reads.
She has in recent years been assigned to a neighborhood action team, acting as a liaison with the community.
“[Smith] is a conduit between citizens and the entire department, forging lasting partnerships,” the evaluation by her immediate supervisor reads. “[She] treats all persons with dignity and respect.”
She handles everything from protests to a preschool Halloween safety event. She remains ever ready to respond to calls for assistance.
“Although she is not primarily responsible for calls for service, she does not hesitate to assist fellow officers, handle any type of back-up call or buck-up her coworkers and leads the unit in proactive activity and arrests,” the evaluation notes. “She utilizes sound judgment… and sound tactics.”
The evaluation further describes her as a boss’ dream, saying, “Her reports and investigations are accurate, possess all the required elements, and never need to be returned for corrections. She accepts responsibility for her work and holds herself personally accountable for the results, enabling her to work with little or nor supervision.”
She is also a cop’s cop.
“Officer Smith received a commendation letter for her role in the arrest of a suspect who was in possession of a MAC-10 handgun with a high capacity magazine stolen in an armed burglary,” a 2013 evaluation reads.
The file describes a case in which she located a missing victim slashed by a man with a long history of such assaults.
“Because of your assistance, the suspect who has a violent history of aggravated battery with a weapon prior to this arrest was held without bond,” reads another letter of commendation in the file. “As a direct result of your dedication a dangerous felon is awaiting prosecution (and) was removed from our community.”
Other commendations are for meticulously processing crime scenes, lifting fingerprints even in car break-ins that resulted in arrests.
With her work as a community liaison came commendations such as one for joining in a “Shop With a Cop” event in which police officers took underprivileged children to buy clothes and bicycles.
And there is a letter in the file from a high school student after Smith helped pick up the tab for him to tour colleges.
“I would like to follow my dream and become a police officer,” the student wrote.
Her early evaluations document some of the qualities that led to her become a great cop.
“Officer Smith never complains about the workload and always displays a positive attitude towards her work,” one reads. “She tackles assignments without complaining and completes them to the best of her abilities. Officer Smith is open to critique and shows willingness to learn as she progresses in her law enforcement career.”
Other cops have left us with two videos in which a dying prisoner cries, “I can’t breathe!” A cop such as Smith would have already jumped in.
Fourteen days before her tenth anniversary as a cop, Smith appeared in a video in which she pushes an abusive cop away and raises an extended finger saying, Go on, get out of here.
Smith is originally from Brooklyn, attending grammar school there before moving to Florida. Adrenaline and emotion resulting from the protests there have caused cops in her original hometown to be in need of intervention. Witness the video of three New York cops beating a bicyclist with nightsticks.
Similar videos have arisen from other cities as the nationwide protests continue against a death that never would have been had a cop such as Smith been there.
Every city now has cause to ask, Where’s our Krystle Smith?