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South Florida Cops Getting Arrested All Over the Damned Place

Broward Sheriff's Office Lt. Eric Wright turned himself in on Friday on charges of fraud and 14 counts of grand theft after he was accused of working side jobs while he was technically on duty as a supervisor at least ten times between August 2010 and May 2011.

In addition to working only fractions of his assigned shifts (and sometimes just skipping them), Wright is accused of ditching his supervisory duties in Weston to moonlight at Houston's Restaurant in Pompano Beach and at Deerfield Beach High School, collecting his salary as if he'd been working the whole time.

He joins a disturbing and ever-growing list of South Florida officers with their names at the top of arrest reports instead of at the bottom, a list that, in our special corner of Florida, might leaving you wondering who's going to show up if you need to call 911 or who's walking up to your car at that traffic stop.

It's probably a hard-working, law-abiding officer who's doing his job. But can it be held against someone for worrying, just a little, that it's one of the officers with no qualms about breaking rules? And worrying, just a little, about which rules they're willing to break?

Let's look at a few of the shining stars of South Florida criminal justice: BSO Det. Brent Woodall is the most recently arrested -- he was nabbed last Monday night at Cheetah Gentlemen's Club in Pompano Beach.

"Being at a strip club isn't a crime," you might say, and you would be right most of the time. But Woodall was on house arrest and removed his ankle bracelet to go there, according to the Sun-Sentinel, and that's generally accepted to be a no-no. He already had two strikes against him on the "please don't revoke my bail" front -- after being released to house arrest, he was accused of both leaving the scene of an accident and sending threatening text messages to a witness in his grand theft case.

And that grand theft case? It was on charges that he stole more than $1,000 from a drug dealer he was arresting... except he was totally busted when the drug dealer turned out to be an undercover cop.

Then there are Fort Lauderdale officers Michael Florenco, Matthew Moceri, and Geoffrey Shaffer, who turned themselves in late last month after being accused of breaking policy to go on a car chase in 2009 and perjuring themselves in the cover-up.

Even before those charges were filed, Moceri and Florenco were in hot water -- they'd been on paid leave since last year after their names came up in the investigation into two more Fort Lauderdale cops, Brian Dodge and Billy Koepke. Those two could go to prison for life if they're convicted on the giant pile of charges they face for allegedly kidnapping and robbing a guy in an attempt to find drug dealers. Click those links if you want the whole story; it's really difficult to summarize in one sentence how disgusting the whole thing is.

This post could continue for hundreds more words (how about the BSO detective accused of witness tampering on Koepke's behalf?), but you get the idea, and we didn't even touch on Miami-Dade County, where, for example, a cop was raping people in his patrol car and no one will take the blame for letting him.

I'll leave you with a compilation the Miami Herald put together last month:
Over the past year, a Miami police officer was arrested for weaving in and out of traffic at 120 mph on Florida's Turnpike in Broward; another Miami police officer pleaded guilty to stealing thousands of dollars from colleagues; a Hollywood police officer was found guilty of falsifying a DUI-crash investigation; and a Miami Beach cop was arrested after, authorities said, he took a woman on a drunken ATV joyride. [The Herald left out that the ATV joyride involved the cop running over two people and leaving them with critical injuries.]

Two Coral Springs officers are under investigation for allegedly trumping up criminal charges against a stranded motorist, two BSO deputies are under investigation for grand theft, two others were arrested in January for allegedly falsifying police reports and Opa-locka has the distinction of having the police officer with the worst Florida Department of Law Enforcement record in the state.
Granted, only a very (very) small fraction of the South Florida law enforcement community has been found acted outside the law. But if these cops can't obey the law, uphold the law, or tell the truth about doing either, what else is going on that we don't know about? And who the hell are we supposed to trust?

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Rich Abdill

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