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National Civil Rights Attorney Takes On Case Of Tamarac Teen 'Excessively Abused' By Police

Teen arrest
Caitie Switalski
Tallahassee-based civil rights attorney Ben Crump stands with Delucca Rolle's mother, Clintina Rolle, during a news conference with the local NAACP in Fort Lauderdale Thursday.

A nationally recognized civil rights attorney has gotten involved in a case involving a Tamarac teen whose forceful arrest was captured in a video that went viral last week.

Ben Crump represented the family of Trayvon Martin after he was shot to death in 2012. Now he's representing 15 year-old Delucca Rolle, who was seen in the video being pepper sprayed by Broward Sheriff's Deputies. His head was repeatedly slammed against the pavement in a McDonald's parking lot.

The video, taken by cell phone Thursday, went viral across social media and sparked national outrage against police use of force. 

Two officers involved, Deputy Christopher Krickovitch and Sergeant Gregory LaCerra, have been suspended from duty with pay. And Broward County Sheriff Gregory Tony told WLRN Thursday that he has made the investigation a priority for BSO's internal affairs.

WLRN sat down with Crump to talk about the nuances of Rolle's case and what it reveals about the criminal justice system.

WLRN: Why did you want to take this on?

CRUMP: I’m a parent of black children. If you're a parent of children of color, and you see a video where this kid was unnecessarily, excessively abused by the police - and if I don’t do something, then shame on me. Delucca is a child. If we don't try to provide a voice for the voiceless then we should give back our law degrees.

For every Delucca Rolle we can give you 1,000 minority children who had trumped-up charges, who spent the night in those detention facilities just because the police department conspired to say, ‘we're going to teach them a lesson.’

You've represented individuals with cases similar to Rolle’s against law enforcement agencies before. What are the challenges and the nuances that you face?

The first major challenge and hurdle is everybody wants to believe the police. In greater society, now people in our community - we’re not so quick to accept what the police narrative is as the gospel. That's the real challenge. You start at a deficit when you go against the police in America at first, especially if you are black or brown person.

Are there any similarities legally between Delucca Rolles’ case and Trayvon Martin's case?

Well they were both young black teenage boys. That's the first similarity. 

The distinction I think that is huge is the fact that you have cell phone videos so prevalent in society today. When that 911 tape was released and you heard Trayvon screaming, that shocked the conscience of America. That was big because you have to have something objective — and that's what this video with Delucca is doing, is shocking the conscience of America.

The one thing that I also think is going to be very similar - and I know it's coming - they're going to try to attack Delucca's character. Because they always try to assassinate the character of our children to justify brutalizing them.

What needs to happen so that you no longer have to take up these cases?

There just has to be an overall change in the fundamentals of our legal system, not just the criminal justice system, but our entire legal system.

We thought we had already litigated this matter, that black people and brown people were equal in society. That there was no master race. That skin color was the most irrelevant factor to a person’s achievement. But now we see, from the White House and the rise of all these white supremacy groups, that we literally have to define for American culture, yet again, that we all have value. That we all have worth, and we are deserving of the full benefit of due process of the law and all our constitutional rights.

It's sad that we are having to re-litigate these issues, but things like Delucca tells us that we cannot take it for granted.

You've been adamant about wanting justice for Delucca. What does that justice look like?

The state attorney needs to do his job, and press charges. The leadership of Broward Sheriff’s department: if people violate the policy and procedures, which we firmly believe, [then] they should be terminated.

For everybody outside of the black community looking at this case: whatever you would demand for your children we're demanding the same for Delucca.