West Palm Heat

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Bryant had few problems with Bradshaw in the early days, he says, but he sensed their relationship souring in the late 1980s, when Bryant became the department's staff inspector. The position was new, intended to help the WPBPD gain and keep national accreditation. Bradshaw was an assistant chief at the time and a commander of the criminal investigations bureau and undercover narcotics unit. Bryant reviewed the performance of those units from time to time.

In 1990, Bryant says, he discovered that a time sheet had been improperly altered for a captain in charge of the criminal investigations division, someone who was a favorite of Bradshaw's. "I made a formal complaint letter and suggested an internal affairs investigation be started," Bryant says. Instead of handling it through the IA unit, however, the chief of police at that time turned the investigation over to Bradshaw.

"In my opinion," Bryant contends, "Bradshaw completely covered up the whole thing."

Other cops complain of a good ol' boy clique in the department that has curried Bradshaw's favor -- and woe to those who cross the favored. "He may not talk mean," one former West Palm officer says, "but he'll direct his people to go cut your throat."

John Palladino learned that firsthand about a decade ago. The 47-year-old West Palm patrolman has close-cropped hair and a salt-and-pepper mustache. He and his family live in unincorporated Lake Worth in a neighborhood of groomed yards and twisting streets. He's a Harley-Davidson fanatic; his office at home is crowded with H-D models, pictures, and pillows, and a real one stands in his garage. Although he'd hoped to one day work in the department's motorcycle unit, he's been repeatedly passed over -- punishment, he says, for crossing the boss.

Palladino joined the WPBPD in 1982 and enjoyed some notable successes working in the undercover narcotics unit in the early 1990s. In one case, he was instrumental in seizing $1.2 million in drug money, the largest amount in the department's history.

"During that investigation," he says, "Chief Bradshaw said to me. 'Great job -- you can pretty much write your ticket to wherever you want to go in this department. I'm really proud to have you on the team. '"

But Palladino's career went sour in 1993. While on vacation that year, he received a call from a secretary with the West Palm city attorney's office about a recent case in which he'd seized about $126,000 in drug money from the city's Greyhound station using his drug-sniffing dog. She needed his signature on papers in order to process the money. Palladino told her he'd be working the following night on an off-duty detail downtown and asked her to forward the paperwork via departmental mail. He received approval for the procedure from his lieutenant, Bill McGinley, who was a friend of Bradshaw's. The documents, however, weren't on his desk.

A few days later, he says, he happened to have another phone conversation with the secretary, who mentioned that she'd processed the paperwork he'd signed. Palladino, however, had never signed them. A few minutes later, he received a call from a city attorney who said that he was looking at five notarized documents signed by Palladino but that the last signature bore no resemblance to the others.

With something obviously amiss, Palladino notified the head of the internal affairs division. Palladino was scheduled to return to work that evening, and when he arrived, he found in his mailbox a handwritten note signed by McGinley. It stated in part, "You may not remember this, that's why I'm writing you this note. I brought the paper out to your house [this morning] and had you sign it since you had just got off at [6:30 a.m.]. You were pretty groggy with sleep when I woke you to sign it, so I just thought I'd let you know it happened."

"That was a total lie," Palladino snarls of McGinley's alibi. The next day, he called internal affairs and said, "I think I know who forged my name to that document."

McGinley admitted he'd signed the check, but little was made of the fact that he tried to cover up the forgery with his note. McGinley received a five-day suspension in the end, and the secretary who notarized the paperwork lost her notary seal. When McGinley got back from his suspension, he continued to hold a supervisory position in the chain of command above Palladino. "For a whole year, I felt the knives were sticking in my back," Palladino says. McGinley retired at the end of the year.

"As far as policy and procedure goes with Bradshaw, if you were in his clique, you were dealt with one way," Palladino concludes. "If you weren't, you were dealt with another way."

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Wyatt Olson
Contact: Wyatt Olson