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Officer apologizes for conduct after trade summit

Published August 10, 2006

FORT LAUDERDALE - A high-ranking Broward sheriff's officer apologized Wednesday for derogatory comments he and other officers made in a police training video following the 2003 Free Trade Area of the Americas summit in Miami.

The video shows Maj. John Brooks and other officers praising one another for shooting protesters with rubber bullets at the convention a day earlier.

"Looking back at the tape, in hindsight, I shouldn't have said those things," Brooks said in a report published Wednesday night on the Miami Herald Web site.

One of the protesters, Elizabeth Ritter, contends she was unjustifiably shot with rubber bullets while she stood in front of police. A video recorded the day of the protests shows Ritter cowering under a sign while being pelted with bullets. One bullet pierced the sign and struck her in the head.

The training tape shows Brooks complimenting other officers for their work during the protests. The tape also shows officers joking about the shots fired at Ritter.

Broward sheriff's officials said no one would face disciplinary action in connection with the training video.

Brooks joined the Sheriff's Office in 2000, less than a month after quitting his job as a Miami assistant police chief amid an uproar over his ride-along with federal agents during the armed raid to seize Elian Gonzalez. Elected officials had warned that they did not want Miami police involved.

Miami's Civilian Investigative Panel last week concluded that police officers indiscriminately used stun guns, tear gas and other weapons and unlawfully arrested and searched protesters during massive demonstrations three years ago at the trade summit.

The response to roughly 8,000 demonstrators was largely the result of poor communication among law enforcement agencies and preoccupation with violent protests at previous free trade meetings in Seattle and elsewhere, the panel found.

[Last modified August 10, 2006, 06:02:21]

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