Chief's actions disputed

 

Chief's actions disputed

 

Date: December 2, 2009
by: Kurt Schultheis | City Editor

 
 

A public records request initiated by Southwest Police Benevolent Association Attorney Michael Krohn reveals that a Longboat Key police officer was reprimanded for looking at pornographic images on police-issued laptop computers during the course of an entire year, while another officer was sending text messages of a sexual nature to fellow police department employees.

Both officers are still employed by the Town of Longboat Key.

Krohn, who is defending former town police Officer Jessica Anderson in her upcoming Dec. 8 appeal of her Oct. 21 firing by Police Chief Al Hogle, asked for the last three years of any documented cases of misconduct among the police department staff in an effort to prove to Town Manager Bruce St. Denis that Anderson’s termination “was excessive and disparate in treatment.”

Anderson awakened a Key resident June 14 and told him to move his vehicle from the median, even though the vehicle was not creating a traffic hazard. Anderson did not give the man an opportunity to produce his driver’s license or move the vehicle before arresting him for resisting, obstructing and failure to obey a lawful command.

Krohn told The Longboat Observer that he believes Anderson was treated differently than other officers in the department.

“There are other officers in that agency who have done things that are terminable,” Krohn said.
Evidence that Krohn will most likely use in his hearing to prove that point is Officer Charles Erickson’s disciplinary measure.

Hogle issued Erickson an 84-hour suspension from work with no pay in January for using Longboat Key portable computers in patrol cars to access inappropriate Internet Web sites depicting sexually explicit images from Nov. 11, 2007, through Nov. 13, 2008, while he was on duty.

Erickson, who openly admitted to accessing the Web sites and to using poor judgment during shifts, downloaded 24 independent images on the computers.

The town’s Internet-access policy states that employees are not allowed to use the Internet for personal gain or to download material that is sexual in content.

Erickson, whose actions are considered a fireable offense, was told that if inappropriate Internet use was discovered on his computer again, he would be considered for termination.

Hogle defended his decision not to terminate Erickson last week, explaining that both the Erickson and Anderson cases were different.

Although it was the first record of misconduct for both Erickson and Anderson, Hogle said “there’s no comparison between the two cases.”

“Officer Anderson’s employment was terminated because she took away the rights of a Longboat Key citizen for what was not deemed a legitimate arrest,” Hogle said. “Officer Erickson’s case was a first-time offense that did not involve other citizens or violating someone’s constitutional rights.”

Hogle said his department looks at all issues when reviewing a case of misconduct.

“All of our cases of misconduct have always been reviewed in a fair fashion,” Hogle said.

Text message issues revealed
Krohn’s public records request also revealed a case of misconduct by Officer John Martin, who was sending text messages “of a sexual nature” to Anderson while she was still employed by the town.

Capt. Steve Mislyan issued a complaint of conduct report to Hogle dated July 8, in which he explains that Martin sent 20 text messages to dispatcher Sheila Pilato, in which he repeatedly asked Pilato to have Anderson call him.

When Mislyan questioned Anderson on duty, she explained that that she had been receiving text messages of a sexual nature from Martin for months, until he agreed to delete her phone number when she asked him to stop.

Both Pilato and Anderson said during questioning that they initially began texting Martin in a friendly manner, but both employees said Martin quickly began texting while he was off-duty, “asking for bra sizes and other innuendos.”

And, on July 27, former police officer Pati Beardsley, who was fired Oct. 15 for waving her handgun at motorists in Sarasota, reported to Human Resources Manager Lisa Silvertooth that Martin was harassing her for months with similar text messages.

E-mails between Hogle and Deputy Police Chief Martin Sharkey reveal that both chiefs had asked Martin to stop sending messages to Beardsley at her request as early as January 2009. But a July 9 e-mail from Sharkey to Hogle reveals that Sharkey reprimanded Martin again for sending messages to Beardsley and Anderson.

Martin never received any disciplinary measures from Hogle for the ongoing text-messaging incident.
Hogle said Martin’s actions were not considered a fireable offense and that he would only re-review the case if Anderson and Martin submitted the records for all the text messages that were sent between the two of them from their personal cell phones.

Contact Kurt Schultheis at kschultheis@yourobserver.com.
 

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Currently 4 Responses

  • 1.
  • Mr. Allen,

    The next time that you try to exit one of the side streets onto GMD and there is a very large truck parked in the way, blocking your view of oncoming traffic, creating a dangerous situation for you and your family, you may thank some of the officers for taking the time to enforce STATE LAWS that prohibit parking in the State right of way.

    I would caution you to reserve your judgement of either of these officers unless you know all of the facts! You were not there when Ofc. Anderson used the profanity and you have no idea if the children were in fact present or not. Are you aware of the criminal history of your beloved neighbor and fellow taxpayer? Are you aware of the possibility of any resistance that was encountered by Ofc. Anderson by Mr. Menendez during the call? Unless you were a witness to the event, the best thing for anyone that was not involved would be to reserve their judgement unless they know ALL of the facts surrounding the incident.

    As for Ofc. Erickson, he is a fine officer and did indeed use poor judgement. However, I do not believe this means that Ofc. Erickson is incapable of serving and protecting the community.

    Come on, Mr. Allen, you yourself have never viewed pornographic material?! Give me a break. If you want to contribute something for this community to read, why don't you do so with some type of intelligence.
  •  
  • jackie house
    Sun 13th Dec 2009
    at 5:14pm
  • 2.
  • Both cops should be terminated. In longboat key where crime is relatively low, it seems cops have nothing better to do than sit in their cruisers, watch porn, and harass residents for parking on the grass. Anderson was repeatedly asked to stop using profanity in front of the children by the taxpaying Longboat resident, instead she just lost her marbles and arrested the innocent man in front of the children. Its cops like these that give the rest of the well doing department a bad name. I believe that there should be some psychological screening in the police academy to weed out these bad apples. These are the kind of cops that probably got picked on real bad in high school and have a personal vendetta against society. They enjoy the feeling of power over others. These people should not be allowed to walk around with the power to take away a persons civil rights, let alone carry a gun. Im sure the traumatized children at the scene wont be choosing Police Officer at the next school careerer day.
  •  
  • Paul Allen
    Thu 10th Dec 2009
    at 11:30am
  • 3.
  • I believe there was a no parking sign right where the vehicle was parked. I think it should also be asked if the state DOT or any other agency had asked that the parking regulations be enforced. It would seem at first glance that this firing was done in retaliation for unionization.
  •  
  • Wal Chung
    Wed 2nd Dec 2009
    at 9:31pm
  • 4.
  • I certainly do not believe that Officer Anderson arrived at some random resident's home strictly for the purpose of making them move their vehicle out of the median if it wasn't causing a traffic hazard. It seems more likely that there would have been previous complaints about the parking and I would almost guarantee that the people at this residence had previously been spoken to about parking in the right of way. I would also wonder if Officer Anderson was asked to go to this particular residence by a supervisor?

    As for the misconduct that is going on at the police department, Chief Hogle said that each case is reviewed separately, but I it seems that the only favorable resolution for misconduct is for those that are white males, over the age of 40, and don't wear a bra!!! Maybe the worst thing going for Officer Anderson in this entire situation is that she is a young white female, friendly, smart and just happens to be attractive as well? As for arresting this resident without a reason, I bet if the State Attorney's Office were asked, we would get a clearer understanding of this.
  •  
  • jackie house
    Wed 2nd Dec 2009
    at 3:20pm
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