Police Union President Expels Retired Detective Who Dug Up (Incorrect) Dirt on Fort Lauderdale Police Officers

Police Union President Expels Retired Detective Who Dug Up (Incorrect) Dirt on Fort Lauderdale Police Officers

Updated below with comments from the investigator, Al Smith, who says "I think I'm being kicked out [of the union] because of my involvement in these cases."

Last week, we posted about public defenders and a circuit court judge complaining that Fort Lauderdale Police officers showed a disturbing habit of not answering questions in depositions that they were legally required to answer.

When we called Fraternal Order of Police President Jack Lokeinsky for comment, he referred us to another case of supposed bias by officers in which Public Defender Howard Finkelstein said that two officers, Jose Dejo and Ian Sandman, had falsified information about a vehicle stop.

Dejo and Sandman had said they stopped a car because they didn't find registration information. But Finkelstein's investigator Al Smith ran the car's tag later and found that the cops had never even searched the number.

Only problem? Smith ran his search on the wrong tag number. 

Smith, a former Fort Lauderdale cop and a member of Lokeinsky's union, commented on the error to Elgin Jones of South Florida Times, saying, "It was a typographical error. I made a mistake and it was addressed and I'm sorry for it. But [the officers] did give false testimony about the owner's (driver) license being suspended." Smith did not clarify his error through testimony.

There's still some debate about a discrepancy between the two officers' stories, which we'll address later on. The driver of the car, Lee Gemelus, is facing traffic-infraction charges.

Lokeinsky told New Times last week that Smith had "lied" in his investigation of the officers. Finkelstein told us that Smith has a laudable record of service in both his office and the police department. But Lokeinsky has moved on his convictions, revoking the union membership of Smith, a retired detective.

FOP president Jack Lokeinsky sent a letter to Smith informing him that the executive board of FOP had brought charges against him "regarding certain deceitful and dishonest actions" in his capacity as chief investigator for the Broward Public Defender's Office...

"Your deliberately deceitful and deceptive actions ultimately harmed the professional reputation and economic well-being of two brother FOP member police officers, while further discrediting the professional standing of the Fort Lauderdale Police Department and, in turn, the Fraternal Order of Police, Lodge 31," Lokeinsky said in his letter.

The issue is a hot one because of Finkelstein's continued insistence that so-called "enhanced policing" methods employed by FLPD in poorer, mostly black neighborhoods constitute punishment for "walking while black" or "driving while black." State Attorney Michael Satz has drawn consistent criticism from area defense attorneys for heavily prosecuting minor offenders who are poor and black. 

FLPD spokesman Travis Mandell was kind enough to hand-deliver more on the Dejo and Sandman case to us last week, and we'll update with more observations as we're able.

Update: Smith called to clarify, saying that Gemelius was not the registered owner of the vehicle and that the owner had never had a suspended license, making the connection between the tag and probable cause leading to Gemelius's arrest hazy despite the fact that Smith, when he sent tag information to FDLE to double-check the facts of the arrest, got a digit wrong. He ran the number "W053HC" instead of "W052HC."

The officers were placed on administrative leave following his investigation, but Smith says the department should have conducted its own investigation first. Smith did refuse to give a statement against the officers for the internal affairs investigation, because he believed it to be outside of the purview of his position with the public defender's office.

As for Lokeinsky calling him a "liar," Smith says that's "absolutely untrue," and in fact the IA investigation does not show him intentionally giving false information. "I think I'm being kicked out because of my involvement in these cases," says Smith, referring to the public defender's ongoing scrutiny of arrests in poor, minority neighborhoods.

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