This is transparency. Makes accountabilty as a “public official” very real for this employees.
JACKSONVILLE BEACH – Six police officers were disciplined last year after internal affairs investigations showed they violated rules of conduct in cases including a drunken-driving arrest, auto accidents and an unauthorized chase.
One of the most serious penalties was issued to Cpl. Robert Bacon, the officer who fatally shot a man who threatened him with a gun in 2005.
A summary of Bacon’s internal affairs report and several others recently became public as part of the Jacksonville Beach Police Department’s annual internal report.
Bacon received 80 hours’ suspension, a demotion in rank and six months’ probation for showing up intoxicated at the Police Department about 8 p.m. Oct. 3, according to the report. He was off-duty at the time.
Bacon wasn’t arrested or charged with drunken driving. However, his behavior drew the attention of another officer, who noticed his awkward parking and unsteady gait. Bacon told the officer not to report him to the supervisor on duty and asked him to drive him somewhere, causing the officer to leave his post, the records said.
Bacon received a medal of valor and was promoted to sergeant after the 2005 shooting of 21-year-old Jamie Williams, which police and prosecutors concluded was justified.
Police said Williams and two friends were involved in a botched plot on Oct. 11, 2005, to rob and kill a Jacksonville Jaguars cheerleader in Neptune Beach. After fleeing an attempted burglary at the cheerleader’s house, Williams got a gun, ran into the ocean and turned the weapon to his own head. He then pointed the gun at Bacon and refused Bacon’s orders to drop it.
During last year’s internal affairs investigation, Bacon told officers that he had consumed four beers hours before he arrived at the department. As part of his discipline, Bacon was required to participate in the Employee Assistance Program.
Alcohol also created a problem for Officer Dan Watts, who was arrested July 28 on Jacksonville’s Westside and charged with a drunken-driving accident. Watts was driving home from work about 2:30 a.m. when he ran a red light at Chaffee Road and his truck struck a commercial cargo tractor-trailer. No one was seriously injured in the accident.
Watts received 200 hours’ suspension for violating codes of conduct. In addition, the department required him to participate in the Employee Assistance Program and indefinitely suspended his use of patrol cars, requiring him to patrol the community with a bicycle or Segway.
Records in his internal affairs file show Watts’s blood-alcohol level was about 0.16, twice the legal limit to drive. Watts told internal investigation officers that he had four to six drinks over a four-hour period before the accident.
Here are some of the details in the other four cases:
– Canine Officer Craig Pfeuffer received a written reprimand after he destroyed a patrol car about 2 a.m. Aug. 22 during a high-speed chase on 13th Avenue South and Roberts Drive. He wasn’t wearing a seat belt during the incident.
Pfeuffer was chasing people who had fled a home invasion robbery on Sixth Avenue South. The roads were wet because Tropical Storm Fay had drenched the area.
At one point, Pfeuffer drove up to 73 mph as he pursued the car west on 13th Avenue South. He put on the brakes as he neared the curve at Roberts Drive. But he lost control of the car and it jumped the curb, went airborne and landed in the bushes near a chain link fence.
– Officer Brandon Shoemaker received a written reprimand for chasing people in a stolen truck Aug. 31. Those in the truck were fleeing a burglary in Ocean Cay, a neighborhood off South Beach Parkway.
Shoemaker was chasing the truck about 10 p.m., going south on Third Street South, when a sergeant told him to “break it off” because there was too much traffic and the suspects were involved only in a property crime. Despite the sergeant’s order, Shoemaker turned on the patrol car’s lights and sirens and continued the chase for a few more minutes, the internal affairs report said.
Shortly after crossing into St. Johns County, the suspects’ vehicle lost control and crashed. No one was seriously injured.
– Another case, involving the improper use of a criminal background search in March, led to 30 hours’ suspension for Officer Shawn Stieb and 10 hours’ suspension for Officer Jason Ashton.
Stieb told investigators that he needed to get a criminal background check on his daughter’s friend before she could attend the senior prom with his daughter in St. Johns County. Students who don’t attend St. Johns County public schools can’t buy a prom ticket until they are cleared by a criminal background check.
Ashton was disciplined for letting Stieb do the computerized criminal justice search with his identification number and agreed to sign a memo confirming the girl did not have a criminal record. City policy prohibits police officers from using the criminal background system for personal reasons.
– Officer Michael Branscom received a written reprimand for cursing and using unnecessary force on a woman at a loud house party in the 1300 block of Sixth Avenue North. About 40 people attended the Oct. 4 party, where underage people were drinking alcohol, Branscom said.
He said he entered the back door and asked everyone to quiet down, but they wouldn’t comply. He asked the 21-year-old woman who was hosting the party to help get the situation under control, but she yelled at him, saying he didn’t have the right to enter her house without a warrant. When the woman’s screaming and yelling escalated, Branscom started to handcuff her and she fell to the ground and continued resisting him.
Later, Branscom removed the woman’s handcuffs and issued a citation to her and her brother for hosting the party. He acknowledged using profanity and losing his temper during the incident.