Fort Lauderdale police have launched a criminal investigation into stomach-turning allegations that higher-ranking officers used a dog to contaminate the food of their unsuspecting fellow officers.
The investigation centers on peanut butter in a police break area that the offending officers allegedly opened and allowed a dog to lick. The offenders then allegedly put the same jar of peanut butter back onto a shelf so that other, unsuspecting officers would eat it later.
“A complaint was made on February 9 and it is under criminal investigation,” Fort Lauderdale Police Department spokesperson Sgt. Frank Sousa confirmed. “I don’t know exactly all they are looking into, but there is the possibility of criminal charges.”
The allegations arise from the 716-member department’s elite Criminal Investigations Division (CID), where years of tension and bad blood among officers have reached a boiling point.
The complaint to the police department’s Internal Affairs Division came from Det. Colin Cowderoy, who works the day shift in the CID. Cowderoy filed the complaint after he took his allegedly malfunctioning, voice-activated audio recorder to a shop for repairs.
He discovered that the recorder had captured officers on the CID’s evening shift, laughing in the office while they allowed a dog to eat food items in the office’s kitchenette area. The audio recording chronicles details of how the officers re-closed the containers holding the tainted food, and put them back in place for unsuspecting officers to eat later.
According to sources, Cowderoy’s recordings also captured a night shift police aide detailing how a supervisor had allegedly instructed her to secretly record the CID day shift officers. That aide also explained how she carried out the instructions, and the spot where she leaves the hidden device each night.
After listening to Cowderoy’s recording, Capt. Rick Maglione, director of the Internal Affairs Division, consulted with the Broward State Attorney’s Office. Police internal affairs investigators then went to the CID office inside the police department’s headquarters at 1300 West Broward Blvd. There, they found the police aide’s device in the spot detailed in Cowderoy’s recording, and seized it.
Police contacted the Broward State Attorney’s Office, which advised police investigators on how to issue a subpoena and obtain a warrant before listening to the aide’s tapes. Prosecutors, however, are not presently active in the case, Broward State Attorney’s Office spokesman Ron Ishoy said. But, Ishoy added, the police department’s criminal investigation is underway.
Sousa, the police department spokesman, said a judge authorized the subpoena, and investigators have begun listening to the recordings. He would not discuss any details of what is on those recordings.
Police are seeking to determine whether the secret recordings or the accidental recordings violated wire tapping laws, which prohibit recording someone without their knowledge and prior consent.
The investigation also centers on the actions of two female officers and the female police aide. One of the officers, Sgt. Kim Logan-Hancock, works in the Patrol Division, and was visiting the CID unit on the night of the incident. The other officer, Det. Kerrie Hagerty, along with police aide Stacy Jenkins, works the evening shift in the CID.
It has yet to be determined when the tampering first began, and how long it lasted.
Sources familiar with the case who requested anonymity said Cowderoy’s recordings are of CID officers on the night shift laughing while a pet dog believed to belong to Jenkins, named ‘Jack’ eats out of a jar of peanut butter. The peanut butter was then placed back on a shelf for other, unsuspecting officers to consume.
One voice is reportedly heard asking the women to keep quiet about the unsavory caper.
Another person on that recording, who investigators believe is Jenkins, can be heard detailing how her supervisor allegedly instructed her to place a device in the office to secretly record the day shift officers.
One source also claims the dog may have been used to commit other acts of tampering with other food. Sousa would neither confirm nor deny those allegations.
“I’ve only heard office rumors, which I never follow,” Sousa said.
It has not been determined which, if any, of the day shift officers actually ate the tainted food, but Cowderoy went on worker’s compensation leave shortly after filing his complaint. Sources say, however, that the leave is not related to the dog-food tampering caper.
Allowing a dog to lick food that a human being later consumes has potentially harmful health effects, experts say.
Terri Maleug-Ray is a chemical engineer and canine expert based in Atlanta, Georgia. She operates several pet-related businesses, as well as AtlantaDogExpert.com, a website about dog concerns.
“Dog-related diseases transmittable through direct or indirect contact include parasites, bacteria, viral and fungal types. Some are more serious in impact to the human than others,” Maleug-Ray explained in an email to the South Florida Times. “What these ‘jokesters’ thought was funny, certainly is not, if you are the one that has susceptibility or vulnerability to diseases that dogs can carry.”
The union that represents the officers acknowledges the concerns, but declined comment, citing the ongoing investigation.
“I won’t deny there are allegations,” Fraternal Order of Police union President Jack Lokiensky acknowledged. “There are tapes, but it’s a criminal investigation, so I really can’t comment.”
Even after the investigation began in February, the department did not inform or otherwise alert any employees about the allegations, or that they may want to take precautions by not eating food from that office. Individual employees bring the food into the office, and the food was not removed from the kitchenette area.
“It was only an allegation. Nothing is proven, so it was up to each individual as to what they wanted to do with their food,” Sousa explained.
None of the people involved in the alleged incidents have been suspended or placed on administrative reassignment, but their shift hours have been changed to separate them, as the investigation continues.
Investigators are scheduled to begin taking sworn statements next week.
Pictured above is Fort Lauderdale Police Sgt. Frank Sousa. Below Sousa is Sgt. Kim Logan-Hancock, and below Logan-Hancock is Det. Kerrie Hagerty.