Observations and musings on Jacksonville Politics

Veto Letters on Bad Cops Bill Start Rolling In

The Director of the Miami-Dade Police Department sent a letter to the Governor requesting he veto the Bad Cops  Bill.  As published in the Miami Herald today:

Bill would impede investigations of police wrongdoing

I urge Gov. Crist to veto the Police Officer’s Bill of Rights legislation, SB 624, as it will severely impact law-enforcement agencies in conducting internal investigations. Although it addresses administrative investigations, many criminal investigations become administrative investigations for any number of reasons. These cases can erode the public trust.

Under the proposed changes, officers under investigation will have unprecedented rights not afforded anyone else in civil, criminal or administrative matters and have access to all investigative items contained in the investigative files.

The bill arose from a Tampa Police Department investigation involving officers accused of billing the agency for hours they didn’t work. The officers denied the allegations under oath until confronted with GPS reports from their vehicles. The officers said they would have admitted to their wrongdoing, instead of perjuring themselves, if they had known about the GPS devices in their vehicles.

Aren’t police officers supposed to tell the truth? This type of behavior will be protected by the bill, which will discredit law enforcement. This provision is ripe for abuse: If an officer feels his or her rights have been violated and if the investigator fails to cure the violation or continues the violation after being notified, the officer can request that the agency head be informed of the violation. If the allegations against the investigator are sustained, they will be forwarded to the Criminal Justice Standard and Training Commission for review as an act of official misconduct or misuse of position.

The bill’s language is vague and offers great potential for abuse by officers under investigation who could try to derail an investigation.

We would have to explain to the public that complaints against officers will not be investigated because the bill provides officers with more rights than any other government employee or citizen. This will erode relationships and trust built with the community.

This bill will impede the ability of police to investigate allegations of wrongdoing and allow officers to continue employment without repercussion. The current statute preserves the officers’ rights without limiting the agencies’ authority to conduct internal-affairs investigations. I encourage the governor to veto this bill for the men and women in law enforcement and the community we serve.

ROBERT PARKER, director, Miami-Dade Police Department, Miami


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