The Tampa Bay Times has uncovered an email from an FHP supervisor instructing his troopers to write more tickets. “The patrol wants to see two citations each our…” reads the email from Major Mark Welch. He and FHP deny this is a quota, which would be in violation of state law: but this is a quota. He sets a minimum number of tickets he expects his underlings to write per hour. That’s exactly a quota. The fact that he says “This is not a quota” does not redefine what a quota is.
To make matters worse, there may be benefits tied to the number of tickets officers write. Troopers in Miami-Dade were given additional weekend passes when they met ticket-writing goals earlier this year. FHP ended that policy when it was exposed. It seems this new quota is tied to ‘SOAR’, an overtime program, though that program appears to incentivize them to work more hours, not to inflate their ticket numbers. Big brother is most definitely watching.
This came out a couple days ago, but I haven’t had a chance to write it up. A deputy with the Lee County Sheriff’s Office was dismissed after a complaint about excessive force. The internal affairs investigation actually cited him for several things, including not being forthcoming in his report of the incident. He pulled a woman out of her car at gunpoint, while the car was still in gear, and she ended up being dragged along side it for a moment. Fortunately, nobody was hurt.
While this isolated incident pales in comparison to the recent wave of suspensions after the city-commissioned audit of Fort Myers PD, it is nonetheless disturbing. The encouraging thing is that we are not talking about a cover, rather that the deputy had consequences for his actions. Sheriff Mike Scott has shown time and again that he will act swiftly to punish misbehavior to protect the reputation of his department, particularly when there is any indication of dishonesty from his team. That’s the first step in building a strong reputation and confidence in the community.
Also troubling is that the woman’s attorney indicated to NBC2’s Jaclyn Bevis that there were not made aware that another witness had come forward, nor that there was an internal affairs investigation on the case. That sort of information is known as “Brady” material: which must be turned over to the defense. The failure to turn that over in discovery is likely a violation, and could result in the conviction being thrown out. The woman involved did get a reduced charge from DUI to reckless driving, which was already probably due to the arresting deputy’s aggressive behavior.
Fox4 has uploaded the raw video:
The Naples Police Department is currently fighting a Federal lawsuit for police misconduct, and the allegations that have come out in the course of the case are more and more shocking. In an affidavit filed Monday, a former Naples officer stated that he and his fellow officers were “constantly pressured” to increase numbers for arrests, stops, and citations, and that supervisors would chastise officers who did not “produce statistics”. The affidavit makes it sound as though the department had a de facto quota system that encouraged officers to be reckless.
The lawsuit claims over a million dollars in damages against former Officer Kyle Bradshaw, who has since left the department. The city was dismissed from the case, but could still end up on the hook for at least part of the damages Bradshaw could be facing. Bradshaw’s attorney contends he was just doing his job. Naples police, including Bradshaw, initially responded to Bayfront for a noise complaint, and things escalated quickly. There is video of the incident, which has been played to the jury for dramatic effect for the beating allegedly given to the suspects. The trial continues in Fort Myers this week.
As if Cape Coral did not have enough trouble with some of the bad warrants they had last year as a result of the Kordelle McKissack situation we helped uncover last year, you’d think they would have really buttoned down their warrant procedure. Alas, it was reported today that SWAT broke in the door of the apartment of a 78-year old little old lady, and they were at the wrong apartment. The last one cost them several cases, and no arrest was made this time… but it will likely cost them a lot of money. The woman has post-traumatic stress disorder, and is preparing a lawsuit.
The Department claims they were technically and procedurally correct. I disagree. If you break in the door for an innocent little old lady, you’re not just failing to achieve excellence. You are seriously doing something wrong. Let’s hope that this leads to better procedures to stop these things from happening. Unfortunately, the legal remedy is for them to be punished financially through a lawsuit. We all have to pay for their incompetence, but there must be a ramification so that these mistakes teach a lesson.
Gov. Rick Scott
Governor Rick Scott announced this week that he is seeking a budget allocation to increase the pay of correctional officers and probation officers. These officers are surprisingly underpaid, starting at under $30,000, which has made it difficult to fill positions and retain officers. The State doesn’t even provide a firearm to probation officers that have to go out in the field to visit felons.
A few weeks ago he also announced that he is seeking a raise for state law enforcement officers, including FHP troopers, as well as FDLE, FWC and other agencies. The requested raise is modest, but probably overdue. I was speaking to some officers in court recently, and was surprised to see troopers leaving FHP to work in local departments, but the financial incentive was just too great. Fair pay is essential for maintaining the quality of our law enforcement officers.
The pay raises will still have to be discussed during the upcoming budget negotiations, and are far from a done deal. Not only is there concern of a deficit, Governor Scott is hoping to cut the budget by over $600 million. Some tough decisions will have to be made, but the law enforcement and corrections raises need to come sooner than later.
Attorney Spencer Cordell
This week the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform released a bipartisan report calling for standards on how cell-phone tower simulators, known as Stingrays, are used by government agencies. We don’t know how extensively they are being used, or even how much data they are able to collect: not just from criminals, but from average citizens whose phones get caught up. We do know there have been abuses in the past.
NBC-2 is doing a story tonight, and I may show up with some comments. The Stingray, and the secrecy around the agencies’ use of the technology is troubling. There are legal means to use technology, the most straightforward is just to get a warrant. We encourage standards and oversight, especially in Florida, which leads the country in Stingray use.
Tune in to NBC-2 tonight at 6 p.m.
An NBC-2 Investigative report yesterday examined the unsolved homicides, and discussed cases that have suspects, but that the State does not think there is enough evidence to pursue charges. It sounds like there is some finger pointing between FMPD and other members of the community and the State Attorney’s Office as to who is to blame here. I think the story doesn’t even get into the biggest issues.
The biggest issues are not the law enforcement disputes. Rather, it is:
- There are way to many unsolved murders in Fort Myers. NBC found 253 homicide investigations since 2010 (That’s a lot!) and found only 146 charges have been filed for those crimes. That is a lot of victims and their families who have not seen justice.
- The far-and-away-number 1-biggest problem, is witness cooperation… or lack thereof. Mr. Russell does talk about the issue, and stresses that it is important to continue to work to support victims.
We definitely need more murderers off the streets, but it’s not just an issue of the State not wanting to take chances… Mr. Russell points to the Zhi Huang case, where an arrest was made without SAO input, and a grand jury failed to indict the evidence was so lacking. And the greater problem with doing that is that if evidence comes up later implicating the person who was arrested, it may be too little too late due to double jeopardy. Fortunately, the State was later confident to charge Eugene Johnson in that recent case that initially suffered from a lack of evidence. It’s not right to point the finger at the State on cases where evidence is lacking, though more cooperation and communication may help solve the cases, and it could help prevent the aforementioned finger pointing.
Andrew Faust Jr.
The case that best encapsulates the greatest problem fighting violent crime in Fort Myers was the case of Andrew Faust Jr. Andrew was a five-year-old little boy who was shot in his home; an innocent killed by the wayward bullet of a drive-by shooting. After weeks without charges, a witness finally came forward and two men were charged in the case. However, the witness became uncooperative, and ultimately the charges had to be dropped. Since they were previously charged and speedy trial has run, they can never be charged again.
Here’s the thing about that case… the State did not handle as well as possible. While Mr. Russell is right when he tells NBC that we need to work with, support, and protect victims, his office tried to arrest the essential witness, the only person who could implicate the Defendants (after erroneously serving her sister with a subpoena). The attitude toward the witness likely contributed to her later uncooperativeness. It’s up to law enforcement at all levels, from the State Attorney to the street-level cop, to build up trust in the community, and to get the community to work together. Chief Diggs has already spoken about that need, and started outreach efforts to start building that trust. He said he didn’t know how bad it was before he got here and got to work, but it’s good to see him digging in. Hopefully he and the State Attorney, and the Sheriff, and all of the relevant agencies can work together to improve the problems in Fort Myers.
We’re all in it together! Community outreach like the efforts of Chief Diggs is the first step to reducing crime in Fort Myers, and we should all support those efforts.
Posted in Criminal Law, Fort Myers / Lee County / Southwest Florida #SWFL, Police
Tagged alberta harris, andrew faust, derrick diggs, eugene johnson, fort myers, murder, nbc, steve russell, zhi huang