A group of 3 Fort Lauderdale police officers were not vindicated, but rather "escaped" criminal charges. Two of the officers were fired and a third resigned before he could be fired. All are challenging their dismissals, so the story is not yet finished.
Officer Brian Dodge, the one who resigned, and Officer Billy Koepke, along with their supervisor, Sgt. Michael Florenco, were the offending officers. Dodge and Koepke were arrested in 2011 on charges related to an alleged shake-down operation, under which they would steal from drug addicts and dealers.
The two officers submitted false information against two men they accused of possession of and intent to distribute cocaine. Florenco was at the scene, tasked with supervising the officers. All the charges against the two men were dropped when a video uncovered by defense attorneys didn't line up with the submitted police reports.
Even though Florenco was completely exonerated of criminal liability and the most serious charges against the Koepke and Dodge related to the shake-down were dropped, the two officers still faced perjury and misconduct charges stemming out of the video itself. The jury deliberated, and in the end, didn't find enough to convict the two.
Internal Affairs investigators watched the case closely. While they took note of the conviction, all 3 men were fired (or about to be fired, in Dodge's case) for their actions and inactions related to the takedown. Dodge and Koepke refused to answer any of the investigators' questions, an (in)action that has a maximum penalty of immediate termination. Internal Affairs handed down the maximum penalty. Florenco, on the other hand, did work with investigators in an attempt to save his job.
The investigators fingered Florenco for failing to supervise properly. If he were doing his job, there is no way that the informant in this case could have been detained for 3 hours in an unmarked car. The informant was handcuffed during that entire time and was completely unaware of the report being filed with his initials forged.
According to Internal Affairs, he failed "to perform basic supervisory responsibilities" and this was "demonstrated [by] a gross negligence on his part as the ranking sergeant on the scene." In fact, Florenco was the first to detain one of the suspects that were being shaken-down, and found no drugs on the suspect. How then, Internal Affairs asked, would he not be suspicious of the man's arrest?
Florenco's response to the query was that the suspect could have been arrested for anything. He followed that by saying he never reviewed any of the reports from this incident – even though security camera footage inside the department's offices should him going over documents given to him by Dodge.
The Acting Assistant Chief in charge of the report on the three stated that if "the correct review [had] been conducted, the false report would not have been filed and the misconduct of his detectives could have been immediately addressed."
We're interested to see if the Fraternal Order of Police, Lodge 31, the union with the contract over all city officers, addresses these kinds of cover-ups when their collective bargaining agreement has to be renewed. It currently runs until September 30, 2016.
If you live in Fort Lauderdale, contact the mayor, vice-mayor, and your commissioner to let them and the rest of the city commission know you want to ensure the city takes a stand against police corruption for you and the rest of Fort Lauderdale's voters. Your County Commissioner is also a great person to get in touch with, as they are in touch with a lot of local politicians and they often work together. Finally, getting in touch with your state representatives as well as federal representatives will make sure they know that you are an active participant in the political process, and not simply a social media justice warrior. Remember – politicians work for you. No matter how much money a lobbyist group gives a campaign, without votes, it will be wasted.