Cops with trou­bled his­to­ries fill gaps

Records show Turner not only OPD re­serve mem­ber dis­ci­plined

Orlando Sentinel - - FRONT PAGE - By Tess Sheets

Re­tired Or­lando Po­lice Depart­ment of­fi­cer Dennis Turner sparked a furor when he ar­rested two 6-year-old stu­dents while work­ing as a school re­source of­fi­cer at Lu­cious & Emma Nixon Academy in Septem­ber.

As de­tails emerged of Turner’s his­tory — in­clud­ing a child abuse ar­rest in 1998 — some ques­tioned why he was al­lowed to work as a school re­source of­fi­cer.

Turner was part of OPD’s Ac­tive Re­serve Unit, which is made up of re­tired of­fi­cers who pick up shifts to plug staffing gaps. Records ob­tained by the Or­lando Sentinel show Turner, who was fired days after the in­ci­dent at Nixon Academy, was not alone among the unit’s of­fi­cers in hav­ing a trou­bled his­tory.

At least five of the unit’s 37 cur­rent re­serve of­fi­cers have been ar­rested, ac­cused of crimes in­clud­ing pos­sess­ing a short-bar­reled shot­gun, stalk­ing, grand theft and ve­hi­cle ti­tle fraud. At least two of those five were dis­ci­plined by the agency for break­ing the law;

an­other stood trial twice for tas­ing a sus­pect who was hand­cuffed to a hos­pi­tal bed but avoided con­vic­tion or dis­ci­pline. A sixth re­serve of­fi­cer was sus­pended for send­ing porno­graphic mes­sages through an Orange County Pub­lic Schools email ad­dress.

In an in­ter­view, OPD Chief Or­lando Rolón said re­serve of­fi­cers are an “as­set” to the depart­ment be­cause they help beef up staffing for cheap. Rolón said he re­views of­fi­cers’ disciplina­ry his­to­ries be­fore bring­ing them back as re­serves, adding he wouldn’t keep some­one at OPD “who we don’t be­lieve can per­form their du­ties to the fullest.” OPD de­clined a re­quest for a sec­ond in­ter­view with Rolón after the Sentinel un­earthed the ar­rest his­to­ries of sev­eral of­fi­cers on the unit.

OPD’s pol­icy for its re­serve unit al­lows the chief of po­lice to de­cide whether to ap­prove a for­mer of­fi­cer to join. In or­der to be el­i­gi­ble, a re­tired cop must have served at the depart­ment for 10 con­sec­u­tive years and must have re­tired in good stand­ing. Of­fi­cers on the unit can take jobs for a va­ri­ety of busi­nesses, from night­clubs to schools.

The re­serve unit’s im­por­tance to the agency has grown since a 2018 change to state law re­quir­ing an armed of­fi­cer at every pub­lic school in Florida. OPD’s 2018 an­nual re­port called the unit, which contribute­d more than 42,000 hours to the depart­ment that year, “in­stru­men­tal in cov­er­ing a large por­tion of the staffing hours now re­quired in [c]ity schools.”

Records show dis­ci­pline, ar­rests

Re­serves have the same au­thor­ity as full-time of­fi­cers, wear the same uni­form, carry a gun and have all the same training, in­clud­ing for use of force, firearms and con­duct­ing crim­i­nal in­ves­ti­ga­tions. A log of the unit’s as­sign­ments for six weeks in Septem­ber and Oc­to­ber, ob­tained by the Sentinel through record re­quests, showed a snap­shot of the jobs re­serves work on a reg­u­lar ba­sis: at schools, Lynx bus stations, hos­pi­tals and the air­port.

Of­fi­cer Charles Wadley, who worked school se­cu­rity at Hill­crest El­e­men­tary School dur­ing the six weeks re­viewed by the Sentinel, was ar­rested and charged with own­ing an il­le­gal gun in 1996, which came to light after he told other of­fi­cers that he shot and killed a cat in his neigh­bor­hood be­cause he be­lieved it was a nui­sance. A short-bar­rel shot­gun was found dur­ing a search of his home, lead­ing to a sec­ond-de­gree felony charge.

Wadley was dis­ci­plined with a 104-hour sus­pen­sion. He for­feited paid time off in lieu of serv­ing the sus­pen­sion, records show. The out­come of his crim­i­nal case is un­clear.

Wen­dell Reeve, an­other re­serve of­fi­cer, was ar­rested that same year on a stalk­ing charge, ac­cused of ha­rass­ing a fe­male OPD of­fi­cer with re­peated phone calls, pages and strange com­ments.

The woman told po­lice Reeve would show up while she worked pa­trol and once asked if he could “hug and hold” her while she worked. When she was in the hos­pi­tal for a lung is­sue, the woman said she woke up to Reeve stand­ing at the end of her bed, and he told her he had been there about 30 min­utes watch­ing her and her hus­band sleep.

The at­tor­ney who rep­re­sented Reeve on the stalk­ing charge, Marc Lu­bet, said Reeve “be­lieved at all times that he was act­ing only as a friend” and that the woman never said she wanted him to leave her alone. The out­come of his crim­i­nal case also re­mains un­clear, as records re­lated to the charge are no longer avail­able.

Reeve was fired from OPD fol­low­ing an in­ter­nal in­ves­ti­ga­tion of the stalk­ing al­le­ga­tions, records re­leased by the city on Fri­day show. The records in­di­cate Reeve sought ar­bi­tra­tion for his ter­mi­na­tion, and he ap­par­ently won back his job.

He re­tired from the agency in early 2019 as a Mas­ter Po­lice Of­fi­cer, ac­cord­ing to a post on OPD’s Twit­ter.

Most of Reeve’s ex­tra duty as­sign­ments dur­ing the six weeks in Septem­ber and Oc­to­ber were at Or­lando In­ter­na­tional Air­port.

An­other re­serve of­fi­cer, Keith Gib­son, was ar­rested in 2006 in a ve­hi­cle-ti­tle scheme, in which he was ac­cused of work­ing with tow truck com­pany op­er­a­tors to sell ve­hi­cles at an in­flated price by falsely ver­i­fy­ing that the ve­hi­cles were whole, ac­cord­ing to Sentinel re­ports. He was charged with two counts of ti­tle fraud and two mis­de­meanor charges of giv­ing false of­fi­cial state­ments, court records show.

Gib­son pleaded not guilty to the charges, and they were later dis­missed by a judge. He and OPD Of­fi­cer Larry Kam­phaus, who was also charged in the scheme, were handed 240-hour sus­pen­sions after an In­ter­nal Af­fairs in­ves­ti­ga­tion.

Gib­son’s ex­tra-duty jobs dur­ing the six weeks in­cluded work­ing se­cu­rity at Bishop Moore Catholic High School, traf­fic and se­cu­rity at First Bap­tist Church, at a Lynx bus sta­tion and at St. James Cathe­dral School near Lake Eola.

Re­serve Of­fi­cer Peter Lin­nenkamp was ar­rested in 2005 after he was ac­cused of us­ing a Taser on a sus­pect who was strapped to a hos­pi­tal bed at Or­lando Re­gional Med­i­cal Cen­ter. The sus­pect, An­to­nio Wheeler, had re­fused to give a urine sam­ple at the hos­pi­tal, where he was brought after he was ac­cused of steal­ing co­caine, and staff thought he might be un­der the in­flu­ence.

Wheeler was se­cured with leather straps and hand­cuffed to the bed as hos­pi­tal staff at­tempted to in­sert a catheter, po­lice said at the time. Lin­nenkamp said Wheeler was thrash­ing around and tried to head­butt him when he climbed on top of Wheeler to try to calm him down, so he “ad­min­is­tered the Taser dis­charge upon Mr. Wheeler in or­der to get him to re­lease his pe­nis so that the catheter could be in­serted,” the Sentinel re­ported.

In a law­suit filed against the Po­lice Depart­ment, Wheeler’s at­tor­ney likened the shock to “tor­ture.” Lin­nenkamp was ar­rested on two mis­de­meanor bat­tery charges: one for jump­ing up on Wheeler’s chest and an­other for the tase. He was found not guilty of the first charge, but two ju­ries dead­locked on the sec­ond, re­sult­ing in mis­tri­als, and prose­cu­tors ul­ti­mately dis­missed it.

An In­ter­nal Af­fairs in­ves­ti­ga­tion de­ter­mined Lin­nenkamp did not vi­o­late pol­icy gov­ern­ing po­lice use of force, records show.

Wheeler won $150,000 in a set­tle­ment with the city.

Dur­ing the pe­riod re­viewed by the Sentinel, Lin­nenkamp worked two shifts at Ne­mours Chil­dren’s Hos­pi­tal in Lake Nona. He also worked at Lake Eola Char­ter School, the Orange County Pub­lic Li­brary in down­town Or­lando and the Amway Cen­ter.

A fifth re­serve of­fi­cer, James D. Ray, was ar­rested in 1996 on a grand theft charge. Most records re­lated to the in­ci­dent are no longer avail­able, but Lu­bert, who was also Ray’s de­fense at­tor­ney, said in an in­ter­view Ray un­know­ingly stole tick­ets to an event that were or­dered by an­other of­fi­cer with the same name. He said the tick­ets, which were valued at more than $300, were mis­tak­enly put in Ray’s mailbox at OPD and he thought he had won a con­test, so he used them.

The charge was later dis­missed by prose­cu­tors.

Turner was sus­pended 16 hours after his 1998 ag­gra­vated child abuse ar­rest by Apopka po­lice, who ac­cused him of caus­ing welts and bruises on the arms and chest of his then-7-year-old son. The charge was dropped as part of a pre­trial di­ver­sion pro­gram. Turner was later sus­pended in 2015 for us­ing his Taser on a tres­pass­ing sus­pect five times — twice while the man lay on the ground.

Asked why Turner, given his his­tory, was al­lowed to work at a school, Rolón said the com­pany that hires a re­serve of­fi­cer is ul­ti­mately their em­ployer and has the abil­ity to choose whether to work with that of­fi­cer.

“If we have a sit­u­a­tion where an of­fi­cer is ques­tion­able to work in a given area, then I think that’s an is­sue. … Maybe that per­son should not be work­ing for the Or­lando Po­lice Depart­ment,” he said.

Poli­cies ‘not meant to pun­ish’

When re­view­ing can­di­dates’ dis­ci­pline his­to­ries, Rolón, who was named Or­lando’s po­lice chief in Oc­to­ber 2018, said he con­sid­ers whether an of­fi­cer has cor­rected his or her past be­hav­ior after a vi­o­la­tion.

“As you’re go­ing through an eval­u­a­tion of some­one who has asked to be part or re­main with the depart­ment as part of the re­serve pro­gram, then you have to take into ac­count, when did that hap­pen? What was the per­for­mance of the of­fi­cer after?” Rolón said.

The agency’s dis­ci­pline sys­tem “is not meant to pun­ish peo­ple,” he said, adding that, if an of­fi­cer’s vi­o­la­tions did not rise to the level of be­ing fired, it’s im­por­tant to see how the rest of the of­fi­cer’s ca­reer played out. “Pol­icy is meant to fix some­thing that was not done ap­pro­pri­ately,” Rolón said.

Re­serves an as­set, chief says

Rolón said re­serves be­came es­pe­cially im­por­tant after the 2018 mass shoot­ing at Mar­jory Stone­man Dou­glas High School in Park­land. Soon after the mas­sacre, leg­is­la­tors man­dated that all pub­lic schools in the state have an armed of­fi­cer on cam­pus.

In or­der to meet the new staffing needs, OPD opened up its ex­tra-duty pro­gram to al­low char­ter schools to hire off-duty of­fi­cers, in­clud­ing re­serves, as se­cu­rity, Rolón said.

Turner vi­o­lated OPD pol­icy by ar­rest­ing the two 6-year-olds at Nixon Academy and fail­ing to get ap­proval from a watch com­man­der, as was re­quired to ar­rest some­one younger than 12, the agency has said. OPD has changed its pol­icy to re­quire the ap­proval of one of its four deputy chiefs be­fore an of­fi­cer can ar­rest some­one un­der that age.

The re­serve unit falls un­der the agency’s Spe­cial Ser­vices Bureau, which also over­sees the pa­trol unit, air­port op­er­a­tions and ex­traduty co­or­di­na­tors. Re­serves are re­quired to work at least 12 hours per month and can sign up for pri­vate se­cu­rity jobs for pay.

The unit is an as­set to the agency, Rolón said, help­ing en­sure of­fi­cers are where they’re needed at a frac­tion of the cost of hir­ing more full-timers.

“When con­sid­er­ing the av­er­age of­fi­cer for, say, the SRO pro­gram is $150,000 for pay and ben­e­fits … that’s not count­ing a ve­hi­cle, that’s not count­ing the mo­bile com­puter ter­mi­nal, we’re talk­ing $30,000 [or] $35,000 more, easy,” Rolón said. “[Re­serves] are sup­ple­ment­ing the de­mand for … of­fi­cers to work for the pri­vate sec­tor.”

STEPHEN M. DOW­ELL/OR­LANDO SENTINEL

OPD uses its Ac­tive Re­serve Unit to fill gaps in staffing.

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from USA

© PressReader. All rights reserved.