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Different outcomes for two TPD Officers who violated policies

Tallahassee Police Department
Posted at 7:28 PM, Mar 07, 2023
and last updated 2023-03-21 17:56:37-04

TALLAHASSEE, Fla. (WTXL) — Two officers with the Tallahassee Police Department have been disciplined for conduct violations. One suspended after testing positive for Adderall and the other was fired after a fight at Bajas night club.

We're asking city officials about how it happened with the policies already in place and why some are calling for more accountability.

"If his process was one way and people were stepping in to say 'hey, don't fire him,' why isn't that process the same for everybody else?" said Mutaqee Akbar.

Akbar is the attorney handling the criminal side of former Tallahassee Police Department Officer Derek Braxton who was fired for violating the department's code of conduct seven days after an off-duty fight in February.

Braxton also has a civil attorney working on an appeal for his termination. Akbar said it's still too early in the appeals process but they're looking to see if his termination was in line with other incidents.

"I think consistency is key, so if we look at what happens with other officers and even in the discussion right now with the officer that tested positive, you know, is this consistent and is there a concern," said Akbar.

Akbar is referring to another TPD officer who was able to keep his job after testing positive for Adderall. In an open records request, emails outline the unnamed officer tested positive in June 2022. He was put on leave with pay until the same sample was tested again. The sample that was tested again in July 2022 came back positive, and he was then placed on leave without pay.

According to the city's code of conduct, the officer should have been terminated. That was recommended but the final decision rested with Tallahassee's Police Chief.

Assistant City Manager Abena Ojetayo said the right process and policies were followed.

"Staff implemented the testing protocols, they communicated the results, and the chief exercised the discretion that he had in review of information from the medical review officers and of course the discussion with his supervisor to make the decision," said Ojetayo.

TPD Chief Lawrence Revell said in a statement in response to both incidents that, "The men and women who protect and serve this community are held to the highest standard of the law. Whether working or participating in events off-duty, there is an expectation that members will always conduct themselves in a manner that reflects the core values of this department and uphold the policies and procedures of the agency."

When it comes down to what landed the officers in trouble, it's not apples to apples but some feel the process to determine punishment should be the same.

City Commissioner Jeremy Matlow believes the police department should have followed the policies in place for the officer who tested positive that clearly state termination in this instance.

"Those policies are to protect the city so if you play by one set of rules for one officer and a different set of rules for another, I mean, people ask questions, lawsuits get filed, we're at tremendous risk," said Matlow.

Akbar isn't arguing the outcome of his client's termination was right or wrong, rather consistency.

"These things just so happened coincidentally to come up at the same time, but it does give us the opportunity to say hey is this process correct, is it consistent, and it's something that the police department and the city really needs to look at," said Akbar.

Akbar said there is currently no court dates in place for Braxton just yet, but a case management hearing is the next step.

As for both incidents, people believe these are perfect examples as to why a citizen's police review board is needed.

The city of Tallahassee formed a police review board in 2020 following officer involved shootings in the city. But now, members of the Board said they're frustrated after not being able to meet since December. This stems from a lack of necessary members to meet a quorum after a dismissal and resignations. There are currently 5 open seats.

Editor's note: The story was updated to note that the officer's sample was tested in June 2022 and again in July 2022.