A sheriff’s deputy who was acquitted of battery in slamming a teenager’s head into the pavement is allowed to return to work with full back pay, an arbitrator has ruled.
The Broward Sheriff’s Office said Deputy Christopher Krickovich is expected to return to work Wednesday. His annual salary is $91,266.
Krickovich, a detective, was fired by Sheriff Gregory Tony in 2019, after the incident across the street from J.P. Taravella High School in Coral Springs was captured on body-worn camera and went viral.
Prosecutors said Delucca Rolle, who was then a teenage high school student, was reaching for the cellphone of someone else who was being arrested. He was then pepper-sprayed and thrown to the ground by another officer. And they said it was Krickovich who used “excessive use of force” to grab him when Rolle was already on the ground.
The arbitrator wrote that the optics of the event “are disturbing. Unfortunately, as the union argued … the use of force by law enforcement in making an arrest is never pretty.” He wrote that the “sheriff and the public were outraged by the video” but that “it is abundantly clear that the BSO has failed to establish that there was just cause for the termination of Deputy Krickovich by clear and convincing evidence.”
Krickovich’s lawyer argued during the criminal trial that the hangout spot at the McDonald’s parking lot, over the city line in Tamarac, was an ongoing “literal war zone” of “mayhem and lawlessness” where many young people gathered after school to fight, using haymaker punches, or were there to egg on a fight.
The charge was a first-degree misdemeanor battery, and in July 2022, the six-member jury unanimously found Krickovich not guilty of either unlawfully slamming Rolle’s head into the pavement or punching him in the head, or both, for a conviction.
The 42-page ruling was signed by a New Jersey-based arbitrator last week and obtained by the South Florida Sun Sentinel. The three-day hearing over Krickovich’s termination was held in March.
According to the document, the Broward Sheriff’s Office had argued “the force was excessive” and “objectively unreasonable.” They argued the “force far exceeded the student’s resistance.” They also said that “on the merits, this is a difficult case. He’s a good guy. He’s a great cop. That’s not in dispute.”
They also pleaded with the arbitrator that “if the arbitrator is inclined to bring him back, it can’t be with full back pay because it will be ‘green lighting’ this conduct. That would send a message to the public, that would send a message to other deputies that slamming kids’ heads in to the ground is OK when you are in chaos and you’re scared.”
The union, according to the ruling, had argued that termination would be so stigmatizing that “it would be virtually impossible for Chris to ever work as a law enforcement officer again.” The union also argued that the use of force was consistent with policy, but the detective “did exactly what he was trained to do.”
Neither Krickovich’s criminal defense lawyer nor his union wanted to publicly talk about the decision: His attorney deferred comment to the union president of the International Union of Police Associations, who said in an email they would be “proceeding forward in a confidential manner.”
Other deputies had faced scrutiny from the encounter, too.
Video of the arrest outside of the McDonald’s showed Sgt. Gregory LaCerra pepper-spray Rolle in the face and knock him to the ground as a large group of teens watched. Prosecutors ultimately dropped charges against him, including two counts of battery. A third deputy, Detective Ralph Mackey, had been charged with falsifying records, and a jury found him not guilty in September 2019.
Lisa J. Huriash can be reached at email@example.com. Follow on Twitter @LisaHuriash