Longform

West Palm Heat

Page 5 of 6

Palladino says Bradshaw himself told him to forget about departmental promotions. "After this, I saw that, hey, I'm not going anywhere in this department," he says.

New Times e-mailed Bradshaw spokesman Edmondson asking for comment about specific assertions made by Bryant, Palladino, and others. He responded in an

e-mail: "I've read your questions which all arise from a document being handed out by an ex-WPB employee [Bryant] who was fired by Chief Bradshaw for refusing to answer questions in an internal affairs investigation. Commenting on baseless allegations by such terminated employees would simply give credence to them."

Bradshaw last week characterized critics like Bryant -- who had passed out anti-Bradshaw fliers at a Bradshaw rally -- as "disgruntled ex-employees," according to the Palm Beach Post.


Bradshaw's tenure as West Palm chief has been plagued with accusations of discrimination by black officers on the force. And not long after he retired as chief in January, it became clear he'd not escape the race issue in the sheriff's contest.



The topic ignited in April when Sheriff Bieluch failed to discipline a corporal for making racist remarks. An internal affairs investigation had found that Scott Langill, a white motorcycle instructor with the agency, had referred to a Jewish deputy as a "fat, disgusting Jew" and "dirty Jew." On one occasion, he assumed a German accent, clicked his heels and said to the deputy, "Your papers are not in order. To the oven!" He once asked a black deputy if he was eating "black man's pie," meaning watermelon. On several occasions, when entering a restaurant with a black deputy, Langill asked the waitress, "I have a black man here. Is it OK if he comes in?"

Langill claimed that it was all in good fun and that everyone understood he was joking. Regardless, investigators ruled that he'd made derogatory racist remarks, but Bieluch's top officers declined to punish him. Major Dan Smith noted that some comments were "meant to be positive and not derogatory in nature." Bieluch supported his top men.

Bieluch, already under fire by Palm Beach County Commissioner Addie Greene for failing to promote minority deputies, dropped his reelection bid in the wake of the controversy and endorsed Bradshaw.

Bradshaw, however, doesn't stand on the firmest of footing when it comes to dealing with discrimination complaints. He left his position with two discrimination lawsuits pending. Seven black West Palm police officers sued in April 2000, claiming that the department had discriminated against them by denying promotions, assignments, and overtime work.



"The reason we filed the lawsuit was that it was a Jim Crow system in West Palm," says William McCray, a 36-year-old former cop with the city. He was fired by Bradshaw in March 2001. "It's separate and unequal treatment. There were two classes of people in the department. It's like a royal family: You had the peasants, and you had kings and queens that could do no wrong. If you're not affiliated, you would be scrutinized much more if something went wrong. If you hung out with them, drank with them, and then got in trouble, don't worry, because this is my buddy." (Asked about McCray's firing last week, Bradshaw told the Post, "I did what was the right thing to do. In fact, with McCray's incident, the arbitrator said he had one of the worst disciplinary records he's ever seen.")

"He just isn't a fair person in any kind of fashion," says Phillip Williams, a plaintiff who is still on the force. "He won't do what's right for everybody; he'll do what's right for a certain few."

Bradshaw retaliated against the officers involved in the lawsuit, they contend. When one of the plaintiffs, Richard Pleasant, was transferred off the anti-drug D.A.R.E. team -- a highly desirable position -- he said in a deposition that two officers told him Bradshaw was angry about the litigation and intended to "teach [him] a lesson."

Bryant contends that Bradshaw initiated an internal affairs investigation against him as a result of the lawsuit. Bryant, who had been in charge of the evidence room, had allowed a subordinate to give away packs of cigarettes from the evidence room. The tobacco had been purchased during sting operations of stores selling to minors, but the cases were closed and the cigarettes no longer needed. The investigation intensified, with Bryant refusing to answer investigators' questions, all of which led to Bradshaw's decision to fire him.

"The lawsuit was the only reason for the escalation over this petty incident," Bryant maintains. "I don't have an absolute perfect record, nor have I done anything egregious."

KEEP NEW TIMES BROWARD-PALM BEACH FREE... Since we started New Times Broward-Palm Beach, it has been defined as the free, independent voice of South Florida, and we'd like to keep it that way. With local media under siege, it's more important than ever for us to rally support behind funding our local journalism. You can help by participating in our "I Support" program, allowing us to keep offering readers access to our incisive coverage of local news, food and culture with no paywalls.
Wyatt Olson
Contact: Wyatt Olson