Palm Beach County Sheriff Ric Bradshaw Faces Accusations of Sexism

Shortly before noon on May 5, as they did every Thursday, deputies Kathleen Mottl, Dawn Amoroso, and Michelle Bonan collected dozens of items from three of the courthouse's so-called "amnesty" boxes.

The boxes are prominently placed near the courthouse's airport-style security checkpoints. They allow defendants, jurors, lawyers, and court watchers to drop off anonymously things that could be considered weapons before walking through metal detectors. You can never get your item back, but you won't get in trouble for walking into a courtroom with something that might be illegal.

The deputies picked up the usual arsenal of cutters, small knives, pepper sprays, and shanks and carried it to a first-floor room known as "the containment room."

Sheriff Ric Bradshaw is closely involved in matters of discipline, and critics say he hands down harsher punishments to women.
Photo provided
Sheriff Ric Bradshaw is closely involved in matters of discipline, and critics say he hands down harsher punishments to women.

"We placed all the items on the table," Amoroso, 45, wrote in her report. "As we were separating the items to conduct a logged inventory, Deputy Bonan picked up an unknown beige plastic box which had yellow buttons and unknown black writing and said: 'I don't know what this is, but I've never seen this before.' "

Amoroso took the item from 42-year-old Bonan and set it down. When she did, she heard a pop. Immediately, a brown substance left the box and hit the wall. Instantly, the deputies' eyes watered, throats swelled, and lungs burned.

May 5 was just four days after Navy SEALs executed Osama bin Laden in Pakistan. The federal government had warned that terrorists might strike in retaliation. And it wasn't unreasonable that it would happen in Palm Beach County, considering that anthrax had shown up in the Boca Raton offices after the September 11, 2001, terrorist attacks.

With the federal warnings fresh on their minds, the Palm Beach County Sheriff's Office deputies called in their supervisors. The brass ordered the area around the containment room sealed. They shut down elevators and evacuated the first two floors of the building while ordering people on the upper floors to stay put.

As the pungent, acrid stench made the deputies sneeze, wheeze, and cough, a hazmat team from West Palm Beach Fire Rescue scrambled to the courthouse.

Within minutes, a command center was set up on the shutdown Quadrille Boulevard, a busy street in the back of the building fronted by North Dixie Highway. A half dozen space-suit-clad fire-rescue personnel were soon ready for action.

Investigators learned that the strange device was far from a terrorist weapon. It was a damaged Kimber LifeAct Guardian Angel, a high-performance pepper spray outfitted with two small CO2 cartridges allowing for a pair of blasts up to 13 feet away.

Still, rescuers decided to decontaminate the three deputies, whose uniforms and bodies were stained by the brown liquid.

That's where Amoroso's report ends.

What wasn't in the report, according to three witnesses: How the women were treated when they were walked to the decontamination area and told to get naked and scrubbed down with a Tide solution. From inside a silver space suit, a firefighter hummed Randy Newman's strip-club classic "You Can Leave Your Hat On."

"You guys get ready for deputies gone wild!" said another rescuer.

Then the icing, or lack therefore, on this cake of humiliation: Amoroso, Bonan, and Mottl were ordered to disrobe in a makeshift decontamination area with no roof. It stood smack-dab in the middle of downtown West Palm Beach at the foot of the ten-floor courthouse. Folks who gathered at the upper-floor windows to watch the always-spectacular, fancy-equipment-driven hazmat effort had a clear view of the disrobing deputies.

The women asked to be shielded from view. They were told: "No can do, ladies! We don't have a cover." Or a blanket. Or anything enough to hide them from view.

That day, Assistant Chief Kevin Green said West Palm Fire Rescue's personnel failed to bring the decontamination tent to the scene. So they improvised. Three fire trucks were parked in a tight near-square formation, with a tarp covering the fourth side.

"In hindsight, we should have had the tent," Green says now. "But we did the best we could with what we had to work with. The deputies were treated with the utmost respect."

Mottl, 35, especially pleaded with their by-the-book PBSO supervisors for them to get involved and protect their privacy. The women were told to follow instructions. By the book. Roof or no roof.

So they did.

"I never felt more humiliated," one of the three deputies said, asking that she not be quoted by name for fear of retaliation from the agency. "First, we had to listen to these jerks say offensive things to us. But here we were, standing in downtown West Palm Beach with all these eyes looking at us from the upper floors of the courthouse. There were people at the parking garage. It was like being violated."

Two of the three deputies declined to talk about the incident. And none of the three complained officially at PBSO, although Mottl is shopping for a labor attorney for possible legal action.

"I worked earlier hazmat responses in the past," says the deputy who asked that her name not be used. "When they decontaminate men, they have a roof over the tent."

Bonan, Amoroso, and Mottl were treated at St. Mary's Medical Center after their scrub down and released in good health.

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39 comments
Lisa Simeone
Lisa Simeone

Obnoxious pigs. I hope these guys are married and their wives make their lives a living hell.

thetruthplease
thetruthplease

The reporting in the story is extraordinarily poor, lazy, and biased.  I love how the writer sets the tone by adding flare with language like "smack-dab," and "fancy-equipment-driven," and one of my favorites, "icing on the cake of humiliation."  Seriously, ever watch Brian Williams or Brokaw report the news, its done without spin and emotion.  Then your rag will have a little more credibility.  

It really is sad that you feel the need to add commentary and language the way you do.  You aren't writing a novel or a piece for the 'National Examiner' or are you; how about a novel idea, report the facts about what happened.  Did anyone in the story, including the deputies, ever use the phrase, "icing on the cake of humiliation?"  How about investigate the truthfulness of the claims and the entire story before you give it your own little spin and flavor and flare. 

All to often, these little local papers, get one or two people to comment and don't follow-up on the credibility of the witnesses or source.  Kevin Green? Mottl? Amoroso? Bonan?  What if someone at your "journalism" office claimed something about you that simply wasn't true?  Would you want the journalist to print the story without finding out if it really happened or how credible the source is or the witness(s) is/are or if the accuser was an incompetent person with a history of complaining/claiming harassment?  Please try it next time, you will gain a lot of respect and great deal of credibility from this reader and I'm guessing all your others as well.  As of right now, you have lost one more reader because of your language and your failure to investigate the story properly before printing it. 

sounds.fishy
sounds.fishy

How are the deputies victims or being treated like animals?  If you weren't there to witness or a trained hazmat tech. please don't answer that question because you don't know. This is clearly a case of "she said, he said," and who should we believe….let's see.  1. If there was an act of wrong doing or maliciousness, why didn't these accusers follow the proper procedure and document it/report it immediately and appropriately?  There is a policy and option for these issues or problems.  2. POLICY….when you don't know what a confiscated item is (b/c it can't go through security b/c it's dangerous) UNDER NO CIRCUMSTANCES, DO NOT I REPEAT DO NOT pick it up, look at it, smell it, taste it, or touch it and say "uh...what's this?"  If they did their job by the rules, this even doesn't occur. 3.  Hmmm….pepper spray discharges randomly...but randomly when they decide to touch it and pick it up,  ever heard of operator error?  How about, "don't touch it, it was confiscated because it's dangerous."  In fact, it says so right on the "unknown" item, you can read the warning label without touching it, that's if you are really that concerned about it.  Now, they want to accuse FF/other deputies of wrong doing…nonsense and blasphemy!   These are the men AND WOMEN that risk their lives during real HAZMAT incidents, ever heard of the Bahrona's.  These are good people, cops and firefighters protect us and should be treated with respect and admiration, wouldn't  the deputies making accusations say the same thing about public servants or is this an attempt to get a free ride?   It sounds like the only ones at fault are the deputies that failed to follow procedure on more than one occasion.  What do their personnel reviews and files look like?  How can anyone believe this story, if they can't' get the basics of their profession correct.THEY ARE ATTEMPTING TO DEFLECT THEIR FAILURES, RULE BREAKING, AND NEGLIGENCE ONTO OTHERS, MAKING IT EVEN WORSE, ITS ONTO SWORN PUBLIC SERVANTS. THIS IS CLEARLY NOT BELIEVABLE AND SHOULD NOT BE GIVEN ANY CREDENCE!

BETH
BETH

ANN BURKE IS NOT THE PERSON THIS ARTICLE MAKES HER OUT TO BE.SHE IS A VICIOUS PERSON, MANIPULATIVE, AND A LIAR. WHEN SHE WAS IN ANY KIND OF POWER POSITION SHE RUINED MANY GOOD DEPUTIES CAREERS.  SHE SHOULD OF BEEN FIRED FOR WHAT SHE DID.  THE ONLY VICTIM IN THIS ARTICLE IS KIM BRADLEY. SHE IS A VERY GOOD DEPUTY SHERIFF AND  SHE WAS TRULY TREATED UNFAIRLY.

Draconian Prime
Draconian Prime

So the Deputies are saying they were stripped down, hosed down, and humiliated... Isn't that what they do to Citizens they arrest? Maybe next time they are processing detainees they'll learn a little something from this incident.

Malkaviangeisha
Malkaviangeisha

Yeah, sure. I guess the fact that they risk their lives every day in order to protect everyone, including you, means they get to be treated like animals.

 
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