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Sunday, February 20, 2011

More Than Police Policy Failure

Fruitland Park's Police Department needs to get its house in order
The Orlando Sentinal by Lauren Ritchie - COMMENTARY - February 20, 2011

An audit of the Fruitland Park Police Department's evidence and operations released last week evoked this response: Wooo-hooo! Ride 'em cowboy!

The very politely worded report revealed:

•A full third of the cash used for several years to buy drugs and pay informants — $2,319.65 — is unaccounted for.
•A variety of items, including marijuana and $2,261, were missing from the evidence closet.
•A theft report accusing a secretary of stealing the cash from the evidence closet was dismissed with an explanation equivalent of "Oh, well. It's gone." It seems that a whole bunch of keys to the evidence closet had been issued and some were missing. Anybody or his brother could have been into the evidence.
•And speaking of brothers, the late brother of the former police chief, who owned a towing service, got all the vehicle-seizure business from the department.
•The department's major, who was in charge of evidence, keeps a 4-foot bong filled with flowers in his office. Really? He reported that it wasn't "evidence" anymore, but he had no documentation to prove it. Let's all sniff the daisies and be happy.
•Eight guns around the evidence locker came from, well, someplace. There wasn't any paperwork.
•One of the items in evidence originally thought to be missing was a Sony PlayStation and two controllers. Found! The guys at the fire station were playing with it.

Mount Dora theft case

Dear reader, have you heard enough? It's as if the chimps are handling the banana inventory, and everybody in the jungle is hungry. Years ago, sloppy procedures in handling evidence and cronyism were rampant, and Lake County had its share. But theft? That was a different matter. In 1982, the late Mount Dora police Chief Bobby Locke was arrested on charges of stealing $4,500 from the city department's evidence locker. His four top officers turned him in. The department had taken $4,570 from the body of a 76-year-old man involved in an unrelated criminal case. Lt. Earl Gooden, who later became the city's chief, noticed in the handwritten evidence record that the first two numbers of the sum were blacked, indicating only $70 had been taken into evidence rather than the larger sum. Gooden noticed this because it was his name that had been penciled in as the officer who verified the discrepancy. Locke later told his commanders that he'd returned the money to the dead man's family. Of course, family members said no such thing happened. At the time, the 36-year-old chief was among the most respected lawmen in Lake for his efforts to make law enforcement more professional. He attracted and recruited the most promising young officers of the time. He preached anti-corruption and ethics; he encouraged them to go to college. His colleagues were stunned by his arrest. Locke served a year in the Lake County Jail, mostly working seven days a week at a junkyard in Fruitland Park. A judge ordered him to pay $7 a day of his earnings to defray the cost of his keep in the jail and to remit almost all of the rest to his family.

More than just a 'policy failure'

Compare that to the reaction today in Fruitland Park to news that evidence has mysteriously gone missing. It's way too cavalier. Former police Chief Mark Isom, who retired after it became clear that he lied about having college degrees, conducted an "investigation" in October 2008 when he received a phone call accusing a secretary of having stolen the money. Cash was, indeed, missing. But nothing was done, and the case was closed as a "policy failure." Say what? Policies don't steal cash. People do. Time to start the roundup. The city manager in Fruitland Park has called in the Florida Department of Law Enforcement to investigate the missing money. Being a law-enforcement officer still ought to bring with it an extra expectation of honesty and a heightened responsibility to fulfill the public trust. If you can't trust the cops, who can you trust? Using the excuse that Fruitland Park is a typical small town doesn't wash. Stealing is still wrong, regardless of whether it's here or Miami. Computer software that tracks inventory is available everywhere, and it is idiot-simple to apply it to keeping track of evidence. There aren't any excuses for the behavior and there aren't any for the city's breezy, unconcerned attitude about missing evidence and money. If Fruitland Park cannot run its own little department without making a mess of it, city officials should consider shutting down its operations and contracting with a larger, more professional police agency to regain the trust of its residents. Her blog is online:


Anonymous said...

Too bad for tho se of us whohave been complaining over these many years to no avail. What a legacy! Crooks supporting crooks. The FP City Manager should not only be fired but prosecuted. He knew about the crooked Chief and used taxpayers money to defend him! If thats not a strong case of theft then what is it.

Anonymous said...

Politics is politics! LOL. How about Sleezeburg. One commissioner has someone who spies on everyone - and everyone is deathly afraid of saying the wrong thing and getting fired - you bet! Good jobs are scarce yet this person who is unfit for the job will NEVER be fired. Is that right? Should people have to work under these conditions? Give me a break! Maybe someone will do something about it in time......yeah, when donkeys fly! This is a lawsuit waiting to happen!

Anonymous said...

Former Cheif of Police Mark Isom accused several people of theft. Almost half of them were innocent of his accusations. He has even called people at their homes to accuse them. Fruitland Park is a place for crooked cops. They tend to swarm there because it is a small town.

Barbie B said...

Fuck the Ice Man (Isom) all he did was harass everybody and try to go on big power trips because he's too stupid to even graduate from pig school.
so glad he's gone and we can breath easier. his drones he raised aint shit.