Thursday, September 23, 2010
7 News Investigations: Chief Concern
He is currently under investigation for leaving his loaded service revolver on a playground, where it was found by a 10-year-old boy. Earlier this year he was accused of letting a convicted felon go because he was a friend. He is the police chief of Florida City, a tough town to patrol. But former officers told us their chief concern is the chief.
WSVN -- Ten thousand people live in Florida City, 36 police officers patrol its streets, Pedro Taylor is their boss.
Pedro Taylor, Florida City Police Chief: "We ask people to come here and protect and serve this community. At a high level we ask them to do a great job."
But according to some former officers, they are also asked to do things that aren't so great.
Michael Arana, Former Officer: "And he said, 'Go ahead and arrest him.' I said, Chief what do you want me to arrest him for? He said, 'I don't know just arrest him. Make an example out of him.'"
Michael Arana was a rookie officer when he says chief Taylor ordered him to arrest a couple of juveniles to show kids what could happen to them.
Michael Arana: "He told me to do an unlawful arrest and I declined.
Patrick Fraser: "You wouldn't break the law?"
Michael Arana: "No I wouldn't."
Patrick Fraser: "So, he fired you for it?"
Michael Arana: "Absolutely."
Scherry Thompson says the chief came to a crime scene and asked him to write a memo on a fellow officer the chief wanted to fire.
Scherry Thompson, Former Officer: "He tells me listen this is what I want you to do. I want you to document everything that officer does and I want a memo on my desk before you leave. He stated that if you didn't write something discrediting this officer he was going to fire me."
To keep his job, Scherry says he wrote the report and this memo to the chief , but he also wrote another memo to a supervisor letting him know that this report is made by me after being ordered to do so by lawful supervisory officers. Thompson says a few days after turning in the memos he showed up for work and was met by a lieutenant.
Scherry Thompson: "We go into the office, he hands me a letter telling me my services were no longer needed, that I didn't meet probationary standards."
Thompson and Michael Arana were both let go while on probation. Both law enforcement officers say they were fired for refusing the chiefs order to break the law.
Scherry then Micheal: "This should not be acceptable. It puts a black eye on law enforcement."
And they aren't the only ones concerned. Seven News obtained this police report, in which another rookie officer arrested a convicted felon for possession of a gun. Later when the suspect was taken to jail, these phone records show the chief and a Florida City commissioner called the officer, and according to the officer, wanted to know the status of the prisoner. The officer was told to wait before I take him into the jail. According to officers, the suspect was a friend of the chiefs. A short time later, a police supervisor ordered the officer to release the suspect and give him back his gun.
Michael Arana: "It's favoritism to the citizens as well."
Chief Taylor would not comment on this case, saying it's currently being investigated by internal affairs.
What is going on in the Florida City Police Department. The fired officers say the chief is playing favorites. They claim he's firing officers who won't follow his orders to break the law and rewarding officers who do. The chief's response? He says one word describes the former employees.
Chief Taylor: "Disgruntled."
Chief Taylor says he never ordered Arana to arrest innocent juveniles to make an example of them.
Chief Taylor: "That's all fictitious. I did not tell him to arrest anyone. I cannot tell anybody to arrest someone."
As for Scherry Thompson's claim that the chief came to the scene and ordered him to make up information, so they could fire an officer, the chief didn't like.
Chief Taylor: "I have never been on the scene with Scherry Thompson."
We then showed the chief the memos that Thompson had wrote to document the order, they were news to him.
Chief Taylor: "I never received this memorandum from Scherry Thompson."
Thompson's personnel file is filled with glowing reports about his law enforcement ability. When we asked the chief what he did to be fired, he had a report brought in from internal affairs .
Chief Taylor: "Scherry Thompson was released from the Florida City Police Department because he went on the scene and he failed to write a report and he changed the report, changed the person's name."
The officers lost their jobs, but they say the people really losing out are the people of Florida City.
Chief Taylor: "I want somebody to get involved. FDLE, somebody who can do something about that department."
The chief says he's just doing what the people of Florida City pay him to do.
Chief Taylor: "I am trying to do the best job that I can for this community."
But, some of his former officers claim the chief is the chief concern in Florida City.