Despite Decades of Corruption Allegations, Is the Riviera Beach Police Department Clean?

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Two months passed, and still no officers were arrested. But things were about to get more bizarre.

In October 2009, Galligan announced he was retiring. His fellow cops threw a party for him at the Pelican Cafe in Lake Park. Sgt. Michael Dodson made sure he attended the festivities.

Pale and thin, with wire-framed glasses and hunched shoulders, Dodson looked more like a chemistry teacher than a ten-year police veteran. At 38, he was amicably divorced with a young daughter.

Galligan had been Dodson's mentor. Dodson spent a decade admiring the sergeant only to watch him squirm under the heat of the overtime scandal. Losing Galligan would mean big changes in the D-Bureau. The stress was taking a toll, and Dodson may already have been unstable. Before coming to Riviera, he had been denied a post in the Collier County Sheriff's Office because he failed a polygraph test.

Sgt. Travis Walker drove Dodson to the retirement party and later said Dodson had a "good number of drinks" at the café. On the ride home, the officers stopped at Citgo to buy cigarettes. They ran into another friend, and Dodson kept drinking — pouring Jim Beam into a red plastic cup — while they chatted for nearly two hours, Walker said. Another Riviera colleague would later tell a detective he had "rarely seen [Dodson] in that state, that drunk, ever."

Walker finally dropped Dodson off at his mother's house in Palm Beach Gardens, where he'd been living, at 2:20 a.m. An hour later, a distress call came over the Riviera police radio system: "Ten-twenty-four, officer needs help."

Racing to the scene, fellow cops found Dodson lying face-down on the garage floor, covered in blood. More than 100 tiny cuts criss-cossed his entire body — calves, chest, arms, head. The sergeant's Glock lay near him on the floor, along with a trail of blood, a box cutter, an Xacto razor blade, and a hammer.

Dodson said that he'd gone outside to smoke a Marlboro but that when he opened the garage door, two guys in ski masks ran in. One of the men punched him, then started hitting him in the head with a hammer, he said. Dodson fell, and the second attacker started slicing him with a box cutter. Trying to ward off blows, Dodson pulled out his Glock and informed the men he was a cop. He fired 15 or 16 rounds and was sure he wounded the suspects before they ran away.

But his story didn't add up. Crime-scene investigators didn't find any footprints in the grass from suspects running. No hospitals had reported men with unexplained bullet wounds showing up in their emergency rooms. And the medical examiner said Dodson's wounds appeared to be self-inflicted.

When Palm Beach Gardens detectives — called in because the crime happened in their district — interviewed Dodson in the emergency room at St. Mary's Hospital that morning, he was still behaving strangely. "Oh, you're good. You're trying to lock me into a story," he told one officer who questioned him.

Dodson returned to his mother's house around 6:30 a.m., still acting drunk and belligerent. He refused to let detectives search the house without a warrant. Twice, he tried to push past the cops and had to be restrained.

Gardens detectives spent the next month investigating the alleged attack. They reviewed surveillance video from the home­owners' association, collected DNA samples from the scene, and interviewed a possible suspect. But they didn't find any evidence to support Dodson's story. Meanwhile, the medical examiner recommended that the sergeant be tested for drugs and alcohol.

The unsettling image of a drunk, trigger-happy cop mutilating himself in his garage signified the epic chaos inside the Riviera Beach Police Department.

December 17, 2009, was D-day for Riviera. The Palm Beach Sheriff's Office cuffed three cops for three unrelated crimes. Toombs was accused of revealing confidential criminal information and official misconduct. Schneider was arrested and charged with a whopping 96 counts of forgery and official misconduct for having signed Galligan's signature to documents. Dodson was charged with using a firearm while under the influence, shooting into a building, disorderly intoxication, and falsely reporting a crime.

In August 2010, Schneider was arrested a second time, slapped with 56 additional charges of forgery and official misconduct. The charges focused on cases in which Schneider had allegedly signed Galligan's name on property receipts, which catalog evidence that is put into storage. She was now facing an incredible 760 years in prison.

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Lisa Rab
Contact: Lisa Rab