FOP Editorial Response To Herald Tribune Articles – Unfit For Duty

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Sarasota Herald Tribune

FOP EDITORIAL RESPONSE

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

UNFIT FOR DUTY – Officer Misconduct in Florida by Anthony Cormier, Sarasota Herald Tribune

OPINION

In recent weeks you may have read a series of articles in the print media by so called investigative journalists with a political agenda that have been the result of shoddy, incomplete and incompetent efforts.  These reports focus on “rogue” cops and a system that by inference, one would conclude is corrupt.  Nothing could be further from the truth.  The reports assert that thousands of cops in Florida are morally bankrupt and suggest they are somehow “beating the system” to undeservingly stay on the street.

The result of these misleading “stories” are demoralizing and disparaging thousands of professional public safety officers across the state of Florida who serve their communities with pride, honor and integrity every day and is eroding public confidence in law enforcement.  Yet now, in a knee jerk reaction to these articles, the staff of Florida’s most unpopular Governor in decades would suggest that the Criminal Justice Standards and Training Commission, a board of 19 career law enforcement professionals including Police Chiefs, Sheriffs and rank and file officers are somehow conspiring with or colluding with police unions, former Governor Crist and former Attorney General McCollum to put “rogue cops” back on the street and make illegal appointments to the Commission.   Appointments to the Commission are limited to only one per employing agency according to Florida Statue 943.11(1)(b).  The “union” representative, Nelson Cuba from Jacksonville had been appointed to the Commission and reappointed prior to Jacksonville Sheriff Rutherford, who’s name was submitted by the Florida Sheriff’s Association.

Frankly, I would trust the wisdom, intelligence, integrity and decades of experience of these 19 professionals over the agenda of a few “journalists” to adequately review the individual cases before them on each disciplinary case brought before them, to fully understand the facts and consider the evidence presented and reach a reasonable conclusion.  As a law enforcement officer, I would trust these individuals on the Commission as a back-up over any “reporter”.  These journalists have embellished and misrepresented with their own interpretation the statistics they sought to expose.

Just as any civilian charged with an offense is entitled to a vigorous defense by an attorney of their choosing before the court, law enforcement officers are similarly entitled to a vigorous defense by a representative of their choice when charged with a violation.  As a union, representing police officers and providing that vigorous defense guaranteed by law we ask only that each officer be afforded a fair and impartial review of any alleged wrong doing, that the rules and regulations be followed properly and their rights defined in statute be protected just as any person charged with a crime.

Law Enforcement is an inherently dangerous job.  Over the last 12 months, 166 officers have died in the line of duty across our nation, 11 right here in Florida.  On average, a police officer is killed in the line of duty somewhere in the U.S. every 53 hours.  This is an increase of 14% over the previous year.  In a typical year, 60,000 officers will be injured on the job, 16,000 so severely they will have to retire, while 166 families will mourn the loss of a loved one this year.  The media will report a long silent line of police cars, blue lights flashing, escorting a fallen hero to rest and then quickly forget the ultimate sacrifice.  We have made a pledge to “never forget” those men and women or their families.  We are angered by any officer that would intentionally disgrace their badge or tarnish our proud and honorable profession.  Many have lost their law enforcement certification when brought before the CJSTC for their misdeeds but that statistic was omitted.  Law enforcement officers earn their benefits and pensions with their blood and sweat.  And they have earned the right to be treated fairly and impartially when disciplined.

Nationally, the ranks of law enforcement in the last few years of the current economic downturn have been reduced by 12,000 to 15,000 officers.  That is fewer officers on the streets protecting the public and each other.  The national average of 2.3 cops per thousand residents has dropped to 1.8 per thousand making their job even harder as the calls for service continue to rise.  The public can rely upon their law enforcement officers when they call 911.  We will be there to protect and serve.

Our organization is dedicated to improving the training, education, working conditions, benefits and pensions of all public safety officers and has done so for 96 years.  We make no apology for our mission and serve proudly on the front lines.

James Preston, President

Florida State Lodge Fraternal Order of Police

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