Wednesday, June 6, 2012 at 11:13 a.m.
Three Fort Lauderdale police officers turned themselves in to authorities last week after they were notified of charges against them for official misconduct, perjury, and falsifying records in relation to their chase of burglary suspect Kenneth Post. At first glance, it's the word of a beat-up, long-haired criminal against three officers of the law. But local and federal authorities report their investigation shows that it's much more than just a guy complaining about getting slugged -- and that official policy was broken at every step of the way.
It starts on November 21, 2009, when Sgt. Michael Florenco and detectives Matthew Moceri Geoffrey Shaffer were together in an unmarked Toyota Camry. They got a call that there was a possible burglary at the Hilton G-Bar on SE 17th Street in Fort Lauderdale. No one disputes that the three officers arrived and found Post fleeing in a white Cadillac DeVille or that they chased him in the unmarked car or that he eventually crashed and was arrested. But the events between those are in dispute -- and prosecutors say the cops lied.
The officers say Post pulled a fake left turn, hit the Camry and caused both his car and the Camry to spin out. When the cars came to rest facing each other, the officers said Post rammed the Camry head-on.
The three officers wrote a police report saying as much, and Florenco wrote a probable-cause affidavit for Post's arrest that repeated the accusations. In March 2011 depositions, Florenco and Moceri reaffirmed the events as they wrote them.
Photographs, however, tell a different story -- the Camry showed "substantial front end damage," but the Cadillac, Post's alleged car, didn't show any. There was likewise no evidence of the fake left and spinout on Post's car -- though there was damage to the rear of the Cadillac that "appeared to be consistent with some of the damage depicted on the front of the Toyota."
Translation: It looks like the cops rammed Post and lied about it.
An accident-reconstruction engineer concurred, reporting to investigators that "the damages to both vehicles could not have occurred as depicted in the charging documents, incident reports and provided sworn testimony."
After Post filed a complaint, he met with Fort Lauderdale Sgt. William Schultz, a 19-year veteran and member of the Federal Public Corruption Task Force. Schultz brought with him a special agent from the FBI.
Post told the investigators the fake left never happened, and neither did the ramming. He did say "the officers struck him in the face unnecessarily as he attempted to surrender," a claim at least marginally supported by Post's busted-up mug shot.
But Post isn't exactly a star witness -- he spoke to investigators at the Broward County Correctional Institution, where he's awaiting trial on burglary charges related to the incident that the cops chased him away from. He's also got a list of court cases dating back to 1987 on charges that include aggravated assault, resisting arrest, and grand theft.
So now the other question -- why lie? Because, in an unmarked car, Florenco, Moceri, and Shaffer weren't supposed to be chasing anybody. Department policy allows an exception for cases "when it is necessary to apprehend an individual who has caused serious bodily harm or death," but other than that, it's only marked cars that are allowed to be chasing people all over town -- no mention of an exception for shaggy burglars.
For a time, though, there was a marked car chasing Post -- the officer, while he was on Post's tail, reported numerous details of the chase and Post's location to the dispatcher, as is required by department policy. Post eventually lost him.
But Post couldn't lose Florenco, Moceri, and Shaffer, who eventually caught up with him and caused that mysterious crash and clubbed him in the face.
The problem with that, however, is outlined in the arrest affidavit:
At no time during the pursuit did Sergeant Florenco, Detective Moceri or Detective Shaffer advise the dispatcher over the main channel of any of the facts required in policy 306.3, E.1. or 2, according to dispatch records. In fact, Sergeant Florenco and Detective Moceri never reported to dispatch over the main channel that they had arrived on scene, were in pursuit of the fleeing vehicle or even involved in this incident at all.
The accusations, to wit: Officers involved in car chases are supposed to relay information about car chases to dispatch as it happens. These three didn't even report they'd arrived at the scene, much less the details of the chase. So that's not good. Even worse: Because they were in an unmarked car, they weren't supposed to be in a car chase in the first place.
Ah, but it gets even juicer!
Fort Lauderdale Police policy is to review all chases, according to the affidavit, "to determine if policies were complied with by the officers." It looks like in this case they certainly weren't, at every step of the way. But no review was ever conducted, and Capt. John Eaves, when questioned about it, "could offer no explanation as to why."
According to court records, charges against the three are still pending; they are free on bail, but no court date has been set.
And here are the documents, courtesy of the State Attorney's Office: