West Palm Heat

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One officer who knew him in his early years recalls him as a "glory-hog type" whose general reputation was a "supercop, cowboy type." He recalls, "While others of us were carrying regular guns -- he was influenced by, I assume, the Dirty Harry movies -- he had to get a .44 Magnum, with the long barrel."

While that swagger undoubtedly served him well in the unruly, high-crime areas of West Palm, it also contributed to excesses. In the mid-1970s, Bradshaw allegedly directed police officers to alter facts in a police report, according to a 1986 deposition by one of Bradshaw's fellow sergeants, James Gabbard. The incident began when Gabbard and other officers tracked down an armed-robbery suspect after he'd snatched a money bag from a furniture store. They captured him in an alley. Later, after several officers had completed their reports, they approached Gabbard with a problem: Bradshaw wanted them to change their reports to indicate that the money was found closer to the suspect.

"I confronted Bradshaw with that, and he went into a tirade and denied it and so forth," Gabbard testified. Believing the alteration was wrong, Gabbard went to his commanding officer. His protest made its way up the chain of command, but nothing was done. He complained to the State Attorney's Office in Palm Beach County, and then-Assistant State Attorney Krischer became involved. Still, nothing came of the complaint.

Former colleagues say Bradshaw relished the role of the tough cop, aggressively pursuing bad guys even when he had to play loose with defendants' civil liberties. At the same time, he cultivated relationships with the men above him to keep him from facing the consequences for that brashness.

In 1985, according to Gabbard, Bradshaw allegedly pilfered a gun from the police department's evidence room. Gabbard learned about it when a friend, the captain in charge of the administrative division, confided that Bradshaw had gone into the administrative records area and removed paperwork describing the gun, then had gone to the evidence room and removed duplicate papers. The evidence custodian had seen him do it and reported it to the captain. Gabbard urged his friend to report it to his superior. "I mean, it was obvious that a gun had been stolen, had been removed from the building and reports had been removed," Gabbard testified.

The captain did report the incident, and a few days later, then-Chief George Siegrist told Gabbard and others during a morning staff meeting, "I've caught Major Bradshaw with his hands in the cookie jar, and I am going to suspend him for five days, and the matter is closed." Gabbard bristled. "I told him Major Bradshaw was a thief and lied to him and he was, in fact, going to steal the gun." Then, Siegrist allegedly took Gabbard aside to say, "I know he was stealing the gun. I am going to save him. He's got a lot of time invested here, and I would hate to see him ruin his career over this, and I'm going to save him."

The State Attorney's Office decided in May 1987 that, even though the circumstances around the gun and paperwork were "suspicious" (Bradshaw claimed that the gun had actually been issued to him for his SWAT team duties), no criminal charges would be filed.

In that decade, Bradshaw was at the helm of two special units that came under fire for overzealous policing tactics. In 1985, attorney James Green filed suit in federal court on behalf of the American Civil Liberties Union and five plaintiffs who were attacked by dogs used by the department's K-9 unit, which had been formed by Bradshaw. A dog had been set upon the lead plaintiff, Ewaine Kerr, a black 16-year-old, while he was in a park because police suspected he was a prowler. He was bitten on the face, neck, and legs. Charges against him were subsequently dropped.

Violent force by the West Palm K-9 unit was pervasive. From 1981 to 1985, three of the K-9 unit's dogs bit 150 people who were suspected only of misdemeanors and nonviolent felonies. Sixty-five percent of those bite victims were black, even though blacks make up only 14 percent of West Palm's population. By comparison, the three-dog unit in Tallahassee, a city of the same size, had no dog bites during that period.

Bradshaw had handpicked the officers, and he was apparently proud of the job the man-dog teams were doing. According to court documents, Bradshaw maintained a "bite book," an album containing about 50 photos of bite victims. The book is disturbing evidence that Bradshaw knew how much harm the dogs were causing yet did nothing to rein it in.

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Wyatt Olson
Contact: Wyatt Olson