Copping an Excuse

Faced with evidence their cop shop is in disarray, town fathers practice some first-rate denial

The numerous claims of forms being altered were impossible to substantiate, according to the SAO report, because there was no way to verify who made changes or deletions on the computer. Town and police officials state that a computer security system has now been installed.

But those same officials dispute other statements. Chief Williamson told SAO investigators, according to the report, that he discontinued an internal affairs investigation of two officers accused of dereliction of duty. The two -- the sole Surfside officers on duty one night a few years ago -- never answered repeated radio alerts by the Surfside dispatcher, even though other officers from neighboring police departments heard the dispatcher and eventually responded to the call. Williamson said he dropped the IA matter after firing the dispatcher (who is now suing the town). Boemler contends that the IA investigation still continues. Also, whereas the report states that the police department failed to investigate charges that Garrett was being paid for an off-duty job while collecting on-duty police pay, Boemler says the department does in fact plan to pursue that allegation and others raised in the report.

As for bringing in the Florida Department of Law Enforcement (FDLE) or another agency to evaluate the Surfside department, town manager Cohen says he would never entertain the suggestion because he would then appear to agree with the report's findings.

Altfield says if the State Attorney's Office erred in its conclusions, it was on the side of caution. "My role was limited to a criminal investigation where I had to prove a charge beyond a reasonable doubt," he says. "But as far as our office is concerned, this was a real bad problem that needed to be looked into, and now it looks like it's starting to be addressed.

Last week's article "Copping an Excuse," by Kathy Glasgow, incorrectly stated that Surfside Police Chief Terrill Williamson said he fired a police dispatcher. While a recent State Attorney's Office report did make several references to the "firing" and "termination" of a Surfside Police Department dispatcher, the report did not state that Williamson personally fired the dispatcher or that the chief said he had fired the dispatcher. The dispatcher, however, claims that Williamson forced him to resign. New Times regrets the error.Info:Published:

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