Did Hollywood Cops Get Off Easy for Deleting Internal Affairs Files?
According to Florida law, internal affairs investigations are available to the public. Also, it's illegal to destroy public records.
Yet high-ranking Hollywood cops are not going to face criminal charges for admitting to deleting internal affair files from the department's computers.
Assistant Chief Ken Haberland, age 47, and Maj. Norris Redding, age 52, were relieved of duty last year after the office of the state attorney in Broward County opened an investigation on them for official misconduct.
An internal audit revealed that the cops destroyed internal affairs files that may have involved themselves and coworkers within the Hollywood Police Department. But it turns out the two are getting off with just having to pay some fines.
According to the Sun Sentinel, both admitted to destroying the files but said they did it unintentionally. Now, instead of facing criminal charges for breaking Florida public records laws, Haberland and Redding are going to be fined $500 as well as court fees. And that's it.
This after the two were relieved of duty in 2013 -- with pay. Haberland earns $112,216, and Redding earns $103,459, according to the Sentinel.
The two cops ran into trouble when an internal audit requested by the chief raised some red flags on whether they had destroyed internal affair files.
The breaking of this law, known as "moral character violations," must be reported to the Florida Department of Law Enforcement.
The report says Haberland and Redding had deleted the names of cops under investigation by I.A. from the department's system. They then failed to send out "close out" reports to the proper authorities.
But Haberland and Redding's attorney, Eric Schwartzreich, insists the two didn't know what they did was wrong.
"They did what they thought was lawful," Schwartzreich said. "They didn't do anything wrong."
Schwartzreich says the two had always complied with the "sport and letter of the law" and did not do anything criminal.
"Departments have a right to purge certain I.A. files, and what was done was allowed by state law," Schwarzreich said in 2013. "Our clients are open books in this matter. No one is hiding anything here."
Schwartzreich also said the two cops are eager to return to the force. The police chief says the Hollywood Police Department is conducting its own investigation.
As for the files in question, it's not clear if they've been recovered or what they revealed. It's also not clear on how exactly the officers accidentally destroyed the files.
The story is similar to when BSO employees destroyed former Sheriff Al Lamberti's workplace computer with a hammer just before new sheriff, Scott Israel, took his place.
In both cases, investigators apparently found no wrongdoing.
But one has to wonder how much diligence was done in the investigation, particularly in the Haberland and Redding case, and particularly in the current climate where police conduct is being heavily scrutinized by the public.
For now, the two must reportedly pay the Broward State Attorney's Office $7,559.68 to cover investigation costs. There has been an agreement for each to make monthly payments of $629.97.
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