West Palm Heat

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Bradshaw brought the bite book to a staff meeting and showed everyone a photo of a black burglary suspect posing in a parking lot after an arrest. "And the guy was standing there with his pants down, and his testicles were ripped out," Gabbard said in a deposition. "His testicles were actually hanging out of a sac, and he was standing there, basically. Pretty gruesome, actually." Asked about Bradshaw's attitude, Gabbard responded, "I think, obviously, he wanted people to see what the dog had done. I don't know if he was proud of it or just he felt like he was sharing information with the staff."

At one point, according to Gabbard, Bradshaw showed the book to one of the department's inspectors, who told Bradshaw that he "better get rid of that thing or it was going to cause him some serious troubles one of these days." Gabbard said the bite book "failed to exist after a while."

Neither Bradshaw nor the men in charge above him took any steps to reduce the number of attacks. If anything, the practice was encouraged by allowing dog handlers to paint emblems on their squad cars for each bite/apprehension, in the same manner that pilots had placed "stars on the side of a World War II bomber," according to a deposition by one of the K-9 officers.

In April 1987, a jury found that the city had "encouraged an atmosphere of lawlessness" with its K-9 unit and that police had violated the civil rights of three of the plaintiffs.

Another unit under Bradshaw's command ran into similar problems. In 1986, Green, along with the Miami-based Florida Justice Institute, sued the police department for violating the civil rights of Haitians and other blacks. The suit focused on the activities of the department's Tactical Teams, specialized crime-busting squads whose members wore black T-shirts and black boots and drove unmarked cars. The lawsuit alleged that the teams conducted illegal stops, searches, strip searches, seizures, and beatings.

In one case, police (not including Bradshaw himself) entered a Haitian family's home without probable cause or a warrant and called them "dirty Haitian dogs" and told them to "go back to Haiti." A female officer ordered one woman into the bedroom and forced her to strip and spread her legs. The officer then shined a flashlight up the woman's vagina.

The city settled the lawsuit by agreeing, among other things, to curb police from entering homes without warrants and detaining people because of race or their lack of cooperation in a field investigation. Police were also required to write detailed reports on all incidents of strip-searching suspects and entering homes without warrants in cases of emergency or pursuing a fleeing felon. The city also paid $75,000 to the plaintiffs.

At the news conference in downtown West Palm Beach, a New Times writer sought to ask Bradshaw about some of the criticisms of his role as a West Palm Beach police officer. Asked if he would grant an interview, he responded with impatience.

"We will, we will," he said. "It's been a very busy time for us." He redirected the writer to Mike Edmondson, Krischer's chief spokesman, now on loan to Bradshaw. Edmondson had not responded to numerous phone messages from New Times in the previous two weeks.

He gave the New Times writer a glassy-eyed look of disapproval. "It's not in our best interests to talk to you," he declared with a shrug. "We won't get a fair shake."

Calvin Bryant lives in a modest home on a busy West Palm street not far off I-95. The living room is awash in soft, brown leather furniture, and his home is decorated better than you'd expect for a 59-year-old divorced ex-cop. His words are always measured, and he never rushes to the end of an anecdote. On this Saturday afternoon, Bryant, a professorial-looking, dark-skinned man with silver-rimmed glasses, sips water from a plastic cup to moisten his mouth as he talks.

Until he was fired by Bradshaw four years ago, Bryant was a lieutenant with the West Palm department. Today, he's probably the former chief's most vocal critic and unflagging antagonist. Along with four other black police officers, he's locked in a four-year-long legal battle against Bradshaw and the city over allegations of discrimination.

The irony of Bryant's life is his common beginnings with Bradshaw. They attended the police academy together and joined the West Palm Beach police at the same time. From that point on, however, their careers diverged dramatically. Bryant's career ended when he made noise about discrimination and favoritism; Bradshaw never broke stride through scandals such as the K-9 lawsuit. "He was like a duck," Bryant recalls. "Everything rolled right off his back, it seemed. He was so protected."

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Wyatt Olson
Contact: Wyatt Olson