Ft. Lauderdale police chief removed amid protest criticism

The police chief in Fort Lauderdale has been removed from office as the agency has come under criticism for tactics during racial injustice protests

FORT LAUDERDALE, Fla. -- The police chief in Fort Lauderdale was removed from office Thursday and replaced with an interim chief as the agency has come under criticism for violent tactics during racial injustice protests.

The decision to remove Rick Maglione as the department's leader was made by the city's manager, Fort Lauderdale police spokesman Maj. Frank Sousa said. Mayor Dean Trantalis said at a news conference that “the issue of race and law enforcement” was a factor in the move.

“We must undertake a thorough review of the operations of law enforcement,” Trantalis said.

City Manager Chris Lagerbloom said he wanted to bring “fresh eyes” to the police department but added it was not just recent confrontations between officers and racial justice demonstrators that led to the decision.

“There's not one pivotal moment. I believe it's for the betterment of our city," Lagerbloom said.

Maglione had served as chief since his 2016 appointment. The department recently has come under criticism for officers' tactics during racial injustice protests, including a video showing officers laughing while firing rubber bullets into a crowd.

One woman in the crowd, LaToya Ratlieff, suffered severe injuries that required 20 stitches and damaged one of her eyes. Another officer, who is white, was charged with misdemeanor battery for shoving a kneeling Black protester to the ground.

Maglione had defended the officers in some recent comments.

“I commend the city for taking this important first step in the right direction,” Ratlieff said in a statement. “Fort Lauderdale needs a chief of police who is committed to bringing about the change that is needed in the department.”

Taking over as chief on an interim basis is Karen Dietrich, who was the assistant chief. Sousa said Maglione, who first joined the department in 1992, will remain with the agency in an undetermined role.

“In the coming days we have a lot of work to do,” Dietrich said at the news conference. “We're going to make some changes.”

A search for a permanent chief will begin shortly, Lagerbloom said.