By Terrence McCoy
By Scott Fishman
By Deirdra Funcheon
By Allie Conti
By New Times Staff
By Ryan Pfeffer
By Deirdra Funcheon
By Kyle Swenson
Carney and company had managed to cover up the decay in the Arias case, but the stench returned in the fall of 2003. The truth was finally exhumed by two disgruntled sources: a BSO sergeant and the Fort Lauderdale Police Department.
In September 2002, Fort Lauderdale had annexed certain unincorporated areas, including the neighborhoods of Melrose Park and Lauderdale Isles, which had been patrolled by BSO. Under the FLPD, the crime rates for the first part of 2003 were decidedly less rosy than in BSO days.
After the city's assistant police chief Jim Hurley accused BSO of slanting statistics to make deputies look good, Jenne invited the Florida Department of Law Enforcement to conduct a limited audit of the numbers.
Meanwhile, an Oakland Park BSO sergeant set in motion the beginning of the end of Powertrac. Angered by a bad job evaluation in late summer 2003, Shawn Enser fired off a five-page response, which alleged, among other things, that Deputy Michael Kantor improperly downgraded crimes and that officers in general were caught up in the " Powertrac game" of manipulating crime figures. The memo somehow ended up in Jenne's office, because he personally gave it to inspector general Rahinsky, according to Rahinsky's sworn statement to the SAO. If Jenne expected this assault on Powertrac to die as quietly as the Arias probe, then he was in for a surprise.
Feeley was the first to begin looking into the matter and quickly realized that the allegations merited a much broader investigation. Robshaw and another investigator, Julian Ulvang, a short, stocky lieutenant, agreed completely. Rahinsky, however, wouldn't allow that, telling them that the FDLE audit would accomplish the same thing. He wanted them to limit their investigation to Kantor's alleged falsification.
Rahinsky's men sent the case to the Broward State Attorney's Office for review, and when the inspector general learned of this, he actually made a trip to the SAO and tried to get the case back. He told his men and, later, SAO investigators, that he felt his office was better suited to handle the case.
Judging from SAO documents, the more likely truth is that Rahinsky was feeling the heat from above. In fact, according to Ulvang's deposition, Rahinsky told him and Feeley that "the sheriff was upset that this case had gone down there."
In sworn statements by several of his subordinates, Rahinsky was said to have ordered his men to provide the SAO only their investigative findings concerning Kantor. Documents generated concerning possible widespread falsification were not to be given unless specifically requested.
The FDLE concluded in January 2004 that BSO was doing fine in its crime reporting. But then, how could it have determined anything else? Carney later told SAO investigators that the audit wasn't even looking for the kinds of falsification alleged in the Enser memo.
When the Herald's Wanda DeMarzo broke the news that the State Attorney's Office was looking into two cases of falsified reports, the ensuing media frenzy forced Jenne to make changes. According to DeGroot, the FDLE "all-clear" report left top cops at Lauderdale and some deputies sputtering mad and willing to tip off reporters about specific cases. In the spring of 2004, DeGroot began doubting Jenne and Carney's repeated assertions that the problem was limited to "a few bad apples." He started questioning the men who maintained the numbers for Powertrac and learned that many of them knew it was a widespread problem. But when he confronted Jenne about it, he found himself cut out of the loop, he says.
In early 2005, Jenne announced the retirement of four of BSO's top men, including Carney, but he emphasized that they weren't responsible for the crime stats scandal. Nor were the deputies or their supervisors. It was the fault of "the system," and that was now fixed. A couple of dozen deputies and sergeants were transferred around, but the people who helped build that system, such as Wright, Montgomery, and Page, remain in place.
Those who've kept their mouths shut after being charged with official misconduct by the SAO have received salaries from BSO during suspension an effective means of eliciting silence from an employee with a family, house mortgage, and credit card debt. Those who cooperate with the SAO or somehow impeach BSO higher-ups have been suspended without pay.
For example, Scott Jordan, the Weston detective, told SAO investigators about how his sergeant, Mike Menghi, directed him to exceptionally clear five cases in September 2002 by day's end an impossibility unless the clearances were fabricated. Jordan, who led the department in making actual arrests, did as Menghi asked but later told him to never ask him to do so again.
Because of the incident, Jordan sought a transfer to the robbery division downtown. There, he was allegedly asked by his sergeant, Frank Balante, to file a false report that a case was being dropped because the victim wouldn't cooperate. Jordan refused, and he and his partner eventually solved the case and made an arrest. Disgusted, Jordan transferred back to road patrol in 2003.
But when BSO learned of Jordan's confession of the Weston case and that he was naming names, the agency suspended him without pay. On the other hand, two other deputies who worked under Menghi, Chris Thieman and Chris Zapata, remain on the BSO payroll, though SAO has charged them with multiple counts of falsifying reports.