Tuesday, August 16, 2011
Carmel on the Case: Opa-Locka Recordings
A police station might be the last place you would think a hidden tape recorder would be used to secretly capture conversations, but one officer says it has happened in Opa-Locka. Investigative reporter Carmel Cafiero is on the case with the exclusive.
WSVN -- Until recently, Tara Lazier was a gun carrying, badge wearing member of the Opa-Locka Police Department. Today, she's still an officer but without her gun, badge or her patrol car.
Officer Tara Lazier, Opa-Locka Police Officer: "Two officers responded to my home after hours, almost 7 p.m. requesting my gun and badge."
Her only explanation, a letter signed by the chief that reads in part, "...it has been brought to our attention that you have sought treatment at a mental health facility."
Officer Tara Lazier: "I've been out sick because of work related stress."
She's now on sick leave. Her days spent at home filled with worry that after 16 years with the department her career appears to be in jeopardy. Taking this officer's gun was a violation of protocol according to her attorney. He says no doctor ever notified the department that she was a threat to herself or anyone else.
Alex Pearlberg, Attorney: "I just thought it was ridiculous."
Tara Lazier: "I think it's a form of abuse of authority."
Part of her stress, this, a running tape recorder officer Lazier discovered hidden under papers in the internal affairs office where she was working.
Her attorney who represents other Opa-Locka officers says the recording was legal, but was it ethical?
Alex Pearlberg: "I just think that they were on a fishing expedition to see what my client was talking about as another one of my clients would frequently speak with Officer Lazier in the room."
Carmel Cafiero: "So, they would think they were having a private conversation, when in fact it could have been recorded?"
Alex Pearlberg: "Absolutely."
Officer Lazier is one of several Opa-Locka police officers suing the City. They claim retaliation over their participation in an investigation of the department.
Tara Lazier: "After that investigation and the findings, a hostile work environment was created."
As 7 News first reported, the City's findings prompted an investigation by the Florida Department of Law Enforcement, which is still ongoing. Allegations range from officers trading sex for dropped charges to officers befriending known criminals.
Carmel Cafiero: "And just when you think this city couldn't generate any more drama the chief is now threatening to sue the City for violating her rights."
Alex Pearlberg: "I think they are just spiraling out of control at this point."
How all this ends is very much up in the air, but from city hall to the halls of the police department speculation is flying about who will stay and who will go.
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