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Photos Taken in Normal Course of Arrest and Investigation


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 Peterson."

"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 questions."

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 therefore levied."

No records on the arrest are available. In accordance with standard department procedure, records are purged after five years.

"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 retention schedule."

These procedures have been in place since Lt. Newby took over as Commander of Professional Standards in 2001.

 

CONTACT:
Kelly L. Haglund, Public Information Officer
305-292-8143
khaglund@keywestcity.com

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