TALLAHASSEE (AP) — Its handling of sexual assault allegations against Florida State quarterback Jameis Winston is just the latest controversy to hit the Tallahassee Police Department.
A handful of grand juries recently have issued scathing reports about how some officers have conducted themselves in the line of duty. In the most egregious case, a fumbled drug investigation resulted in the death of an informant. Now, the department is coming under scrutiny for its handling of a sexual assault case in which a Heisman Trophy candidate stands as the accused. The family of the student who says she was raped claims the department tried to squelch the case. It took 11 months for
Tallahassee police to hand over information to prosecutors. Patricia Carroll, the attorney representing the alleged victim in the Winston case, said last week she had “no faith whatsoever” in the police department.
Interim police Chief Tom Coe contends that a handful of incidents should not be used to tarnish the entire department.
“When you consider we handle over 300,000 incidents a year and we have very few issues out of those 300,000, that’s a good department,” said Coe, a veteran officer who had been the Tallahassee police chief in the ’90s.
But State Attorney Willie Meggs, who is still deciding whether to bring charges against Winston, said “it’s clear that it’s an agency with some problems.”
“But it’s also clear that Chief Coe is trying to deal with those problems, and it’s also extremely clear that are many, many good police officers who work there and want it to be a top notch agency,” Meggs said.
Winston, 19, was a top freshman recruit and backup quarterback at the time of the alleged Dec. 7, 2012, assault. The alleged victim called police that night to report the incident.
Coe, the interim police chief, contends that the police pursued the case until February, when they were told that the victim no longer wanted to prosecute. The case was never closed, only placed on inactive status, Coe insisted.
That contradicts what Timothy Jansen, the attorney representing Winston, said he was told back in February. He said he was told the case was closed. But after two media organizations requested information about it, the case was quickly turned over to local prosecutors.
Meanwhile, the alleged victim’s family insists that she wanted the case to go forward but was being pressured to drop it. In two statements issued in the past week, the family maintained Patricia Carroll was told by a detective that Tallahassee is a “big football town and the victim needs to think long and hard before proceeding against him because she will be raked over the coals and her life will be made miserable.”
The family said Carroll asked a Tallahassee police detective to obtain a DNA sample from Winston. But the detective refused to get the sample and refused to interview potential witnesses. The family said the detective told Carroll that “such activity would alert Winston and the matter would go public.”
Tallahassee police, so far, have refused to address most of the allegations leveled at them by Carroll but have insisted that the full story has yet to come out about how the agency handled the investigation into Winston, who threw for 225 yards and four touchdowns as Florida State beat Idaho 80-14 Saturday..
“There are many statements and comments being made daily, some of which are factual, some are not factual,” Coe said. “We can’t go into detail about that … but there will be a point in time in which we can comment.”