FORT LAUDERDALE — A racial discrimination complaint filed by one of the highest ranking, and longest serving, black employees of the Broward Sheriff’s Office is sending ripples through the agency.
The Feb. 13 complaint filed by Commander Alvin “Al” Pollock with the federal Equal Employment and Opportunity Commission has sparked one internal investigation and more could be on the way.
Pollock filed the complaint after BSO meted out harsh punishment to him for giving a ride to a Miami Dolphins player in his squad car.
He included as evidence to support his bias claim several emails, including one from BSO Sgt. Mitchell Kogod to Dolphins officials. Kogod’s regular assignment is in BSO’s civil division, overseeing process servicing. He also moonlights with the Dolphins working security and he replaced Pollock as liaison to the team.
Now Kogod is under investigation for allegedly giving special favors to Dolphins players and officials.
“I have civil process papers for a few players and made arrangements to contact them after the last game for service and to try and assist them in any way that I could,” Kogod wrote in an email dated Jan. 1, 2012, to Dolphins director of security Stu Weinstein.
“I have been asked by Mr. (Mike) Dees (Dolphins president/CEO) at breakfast with the Sheriff to help out with the players and perception of them in the public anytime that I can,” Kogod said in the email, a copy of which was obtained by the South Florida Times.
BSO officials were made aware of the email several weeks ago but began an investigation after a South Florida Times story about Pollock’s complaint.
Like Pollock, Kogod has been reassigned to the fleet division and stripped of his gun, badge and take-home patrol vehicle during the investigation. But, unlike Pollock, he was given an alternate vehicle to drive.
Pollock’s attorney questions the investigation.
“Kogod was doing what they allowed him do all these years and now they are using him as a scapegoat. He is not the issue,” said attorney Reginald Clyne. “There are several instances beside Kogod’s that serve as examples that Pollock was singled out because of his race. He had a perfect record and violated a minor work rule but he was belittled and treated as if he was under a criminal investigation.”
“They destroyed Pollock’s reputation in the community and tried to embarrass him so he would quit,” Clyne said. “This was not a decision by some low-level supervisor. The discrimination goes right to the top.”
BSO Media Relations director Jim Leljedal did not respond to several requests for comment.
Pollock was disciplined for giving a ride home to Dolphins player Phillip Merling after the defensive end was released from jail on an aggravated battery charge related to a May 27, 2010, domestic abuse allegation.
Even though he has a clean record after 35 years on the job, Pollock was asked to resign but he refused. His punishment included being reassigned to car wash duty in the Fleet Division. He was later removed as commander at the Broward County Main Courthouse and transferred to a road patrol watch commander on the midnight shift.
In addition, Pollock had to serve a 15-day suspension without pay, was prohibited from working overtime and off-duty details and was banned from working or even volunteering for the Dolphins, where he had worked a second security job.
“The disparate treatment is clear and the sergeant who actually escorted Merling out the back door (of the jail) got a letter in his file. But Pollock, a person who is active in a number of charities, was treated worse than one of the inmates,” Clyne said.
Clyne said Pollock asked for an investigation because he had done nothing to warrant being asked to resign. A pre-disciplinary hearing was held and the only black scheduled to participate on the panel was dismissed prior to the hearing after he recommended just a letter of counseling for Pollock.
Another example of alleged racial bias Pollock cites in his complaint is an incident involving Dolphins wide receiver Brandon Marshall and BSO Sgt. Kevin Swanson, who gave Marshall a ride in his patrol vehicle following a domestic violence incident at Marshall’s home.
“I transported Brandon from his house to the front gate of his community to meet his friend who then transported him to Broward General Medical Center,” Swanson wrote in his report about the April 2011 incident.
No action was taken against Swanson.
Pollock also cites Internal Affairs Sgt. Mary Guess, who has not been reassigned even though she is the target of a criminal investigation.
Kogod, Swanson and Guess are all white.
“Disparate treatment in discipline based on race is a violation of Title VII and the Florida Civil Rights Act. Discipline for similar offenses should be race neutral,” said Randy A. Fleischer, an employment and civil rights attorney who has chaired the Broward County School District’s Diversity Committee and the Broward County’s Human Rights Board.
Fleischer added that it is often difficult to prove such a case because of the different factors on which discipline is based.
“If Pollack can show that black officers who committed similar infractions to white officers, but were given much harsher discipline, that would be a violation of civil rights law,” Fleischer said.
*Pictured above are Broward Sheriff's Office Commander Alvin Pollock, left, and Sergeant Mtichell Kogod, right.