2/12/03 - A recent report in a
Key West publication alleged that photos taken during an arrest were
inappropriate "trophy photos." Photos were actually part of
documentation of the events surrounding an arrest and used for evidence.
The arrest in question occurred some time
in the early 1990's, although no exact date can be confirmed since records
have been purged in accordance with standard procedure.
The arrest in question did not lead to an
IA investigation, nor was any type of lawsuit filed by the man arrested,
leading to the conclusion that there was no illegal conduct or any type of
conduct that would warrant disciplinary action.
According to Sgt. Scott Smith, the police
were called in on a burglary in progress. This occurred during a time
period of a rash of hotel burglaries. The suspect fled the scene and was
pursued by a K-9 unit. The dog did bite the fleeing suspect, as he was
trained to do. The suspect continued to fight off the officers in an
effort to resist arrest. The man was then transported to the hospital for
treatment for the dog bite, continuing to resist officers who were trying
to restrain him.
In the collection of evidence, officers use
photographs to document events surrounding arrests. In the early 1990's,
photos were taken with 35 mm cameras by supervisors on duty. For
identification purposes in court, officers were required to be in the
photos or to have a sign with their name in the photo. Film was developed,
photos were then submitted to the evidence custodian, and officers
responsible for the particular investigation would retrieve their photos,
identifying their photos by their presence.
The procedure now is that most photos are
taken using a digital camera and all photos pertaining to a case are kept
on one disk with the officers involved noted on the disk.
At the time of the incident, Tom Walker was
the Internal Affairs (IA) Investigator. The photos in question were on a
roll of film with photos from another investigation. They were passed
along to Officer Walker who says he opened a file to inquire about the
incident but not any type of formal investigation as the photos did not
warrant an IA investigation. Officer Walker then moved into road patrol.
Alan Newby took over as an Investigator for
Internal Affairs. "When I assumed the position of Internal Affairs
Inspector from Mr. Tom Walker, there were no 'open' internal affairs cases
for me to address. Mr. Walker did not informed me of any such 'trophy
photo' incident or cases that I needed to continue working on. The first I
knew of such an alleged event was just within the last couple of
weeks." said Lt. Newby. "Neither Tom Walker or Chief Ray
Peterson informed me of this file or incident and indicated that I needed
to continue an investigation."
Newby continued, "All IA files are
purged after 5 years. Files from that time period would have been
destroyed at the direction of the Chief of Police at the time, Chief Ray
"It is difficult for me to comment on
an incident that occurred long before I took over as Chief of the
department," said Chief Buz Dillon. "These questions would best
be directed to former Chief Ray Peterson. The allegations of a cover-up
are unfounded as far as the present time is concerned. There has not been
any effort to cover anything up from IA or the Officers under my watch
regarding this incident."
Chief Dillon went on to say, "From
what I've been told that Tom Walker has said and others who were actually
around at the time, it doesn't appear there was any cover-up or misconduct
regarding this incident but again, this all occurred about ten years ago
and former Chief Peterson would be better suited to answer these
Lt. Newby, Commander of Professional
Standards explained that, "Any event that resulted in a sustained
finding or discipline taken is included in the subject member's personnel
file. There are no such references in Officer Smith's or Sgt. Vazquez's
personnel file, therefore, one of the following can be concluded: 1) That
it was felt by Tom Walker that the matter did not warrant an Internal
Investigation; or 2) That if the matter was investigated by Tom Walker,
that the conclusion was other than sustained and no discipline was
No records on the arrest are available. In
accordance with standard department procedure, records are purged after
"In regards to any IA file or photos
that may have existed," Lt. Newby continued, "it has been the
Department's policy that cases with dispositions of other than sustained
will be destroyed after five years even though the State of Florida's
public records retention schedule allows for them to be destroyed sooner.
Sustained cases can likewise be destroyed by our Department's policy after
five years providing that a summary of the incident and any discipline
levied as a result is entered into the officer's personnel file.
Therefore, if such a file or photos existed, they more than likely were
destroyed as authorized under the State of Florida's public records
These procedures have been in place since
Lt. Newby took over as Commander of Professional Standards in 2001.
Kelly L. Haglund, Public Information Officer
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