Two Fort Lauderdale police detectives have been accused of stealing cash from drug buyers and sellers, lying about their cases and even kidnapping a man. Now, the Sun Sentinel reports, the state attorney’s office is dropping charges related to those Street Crimes Unit detectives because of it.
There’s no doubt that being a police detective is a difficult job. From Fort Lauderdale drug cases to burglaries and murder cases, investigators are charged with explaining and solving many crimes, regardless of the amount of evidence available.
They get pressure from the media, from their bosses, from the victim’s family and others to make an arrest. And sometimes, they don’t follow the rules. There are rules and laws that are specifically designed to ensure a defendant’s rights are upheld. And while many in public want an arrest at all costs, they wouldn’t if they were in the suspect’s shoes.
It is well documented that innocent people get arrested, convicted and even executed. DNA has exonerated many men charged with sex crimes who spent decades in prison before the truth came out. That’s just wrong.
Despite the many pressures put on detectives to try to make arrests and come to the right conclusion, they must not make a false arrest.
In this situation, the two detectives are listed as witnesses in cases against 112 defendants, 86 of whom face felonies. The Sun Sentinel reports that the details of those crimes weren’t immediately available.
Prosecutors said they will not drop all charges against defendants involving the detectives, only those where they were the main witness. If they played a small role in a case, there are likely other officers who can step in and testify for the state.
The newspaper reports that 19 cases have already been dropped as a result of the allegations against the detectives. There are also two other officers who have been suspended with pay since April 18. The officers came under fire when two suspects were charged with possession of crack cocaine with intent to distribute at a hotel.
The two main officers signed an arrest form saying they arrested the driver and passenger and the two other officers showed up later. But hotel video showed that the officers ran up to the vehicle with guns drawn and the driver was in the car, but the “passenger” was in the hotel lobby. The video also showed that all four officers were present at the stop from the start.
Fort Lauderdale defense attorneys quoted by the newspaper believe that police in some specialized units have been abusing powers in minority neighborhoods for decades. It’s possible that with these new allegations, more scrutiny will come down on law enforcement to ensure that suspects’ rights are upheld.
While no one wants crime to run rampant in their community, they should also want the right people arrested. Our criminal justice system is based on a checks-and-balance system that appears to have worked here. But we hope that officers don’t bend and break the rules just to make an arrest.
If you are arrested in West Palm Beach or elsewhere in South Florida, contact Leifert & Leifert at 954-523-9600 or 561-988-8000 for a free consultation.
Fort Lauderdale cop scandal puts dozens of cases at risk, by Paula McMahon, Sun Sentinel