FORT LAUDERDALE — A Fort Lauderdale police officer is under investigation for allegedly falsifying an arrest report and lying about it under oath. Officer Jefferson Alvarez could face criminal charges as “early as next week,” according to a source close to the investigation. But David Schulson, a prosecutor with the Broward State Attorney’s Office, said the case is “ongoing.”
“While on patrol I saw the listed vehicle traveling west bound on W. Broward Blvd. By looking at the sticker and then confirming it on teletype I discovered that the tag was expired,” Alvarez wrote in his report. “I conducted a traffic stop on the 3600 blk of W. Broward Blvd.”
According to Alvarez’s report, he then ran a check and determined Thompson driver’s license was suspended and arrested him.
Thompson maintains those accounts were a total fabrication made up by Alvarez.
“Alvarez never saw him driving and he never made any traffic stop,” said Steve Michaelson, an attorney with the Broward Public Defenders Office, who is representing Thompson. “My client was changing a flat tire and two other officers drove up and ran a check on his license. Alvarez arrived on the scene later and they allowed him to make the arrest.”
That is what Thompson is claiming. He said he was not driving the car at all but went to its location in the parking lot of an abandoned gas station, where his cousin had left it, to fix a flat tire. It was 3 o’clock in the morning and a police officer drove by, then turned around, and began questioning him.
The officer ran a check and determined Thompson’s license was suspended. That officer was Larry Reyes, who was joined by another officer a short time later. Alvarez was third on the scene and they let him handle the arrest, according to Thompson.
In the course of his investigation, Michelson obtained data from the global position system [GPS] installed on Fort Lauderdale police squad cars, dispatch logs, and other evidence that confirmed that scenario, he said.
During a deposition, Alvarez testified it was he who made the traffic stop and he provided several other details about it, but the GPS data did not support his testimony. Reyes, in his deposition, contradicted Alvarez and the information contained in Alvarez’s arrest report.
“Um, Officer Alvarez stated that he stopped the vehicle when, in fact, I stopped the, uh, – I was the first officer to stop the vehicle,” Reyes testified.
Reyes also confirmed that Alvarez was not on the scene at the time of the traffic stop.
Armed with this testimony and the GPS data, Michaelson presented the evidence to Assistant State Attorney Steve Litvack, who dropped the charges against Thompson. Alvarez then became the target of a criminal investigation.
Alvarez has been with the department for less than 28 months. He works in the patrol division and earns an annual salary of $57,865. He was placed on paid suspension on July 15.
Det. Travis Mandell, spokesman for the Fort Lauderdale police department, said Reyes was not under any type of investigation and that the internal affairs division would conduct its own investigation of Alvarez once the criminal case was completed. He would not comment on the reasons Reyes didn’t make the arrest himself but said it did not violate department policies.
“There are no policies focusing on this specific type of incident,” Mandell said.
According to Andrew J. Scott III, who spent more than 30 years in law enforcement, “There is case law that allows a police officer who witnessed a crime to direct another officer, who did not witness the event, to make the arrest based upon his testimony as to the facts.”
Scott, a court-appointed expert witness and former chief of the Boca Raton police department, is also president of AJS Consulting, a Boca Raton-based security and law enforcement consulting firm.
“Regarding the deposition testimony,” he said, “if the officer did not relay the facts as they occurred and lied in his deposition as to what he did, that is improper and not consistent with standard police practices and procedures. Technically, he may have perjured himself.”
Michaelson said the Alvarez case is one of several in which the Broward Public Defenders Office is using GPS data, as well as dashboard camera video, to challenge the testimony of police officers.
“The state [prosecutors] needs to treat police officers the same way they treat citizens. If it were not for the GPS reports and the officers contradicting each other’s testimony, my client would be on trial right now,” Michaelson said. “GPS and dash cameras are the new DNA.”