FORT LAUDERDALE — The Broward Sheriff’s Office (BSO) failed to submit a mandatory report to state officials over the suspension of Sheriff Al Lamberti’s executive officer, who was disciplined for untruthfulness in official BSO logs and failure to take suitable action in an incident to which he was dispatched.
In 2004, Donald Prichard received a 10-day suspension without pay over an incident in which he failed to show up at a home after the owner called police for help with roaming pit bulls that were attacking his pet dog, which subsequently died. An arbitrator finalized the suspension in 2007.
A BSO Internal Affairs investigation confirmed he merely called the homeowner and then misrepresented the facts in his daily logs. The homeowner complained, triggering the probe that led to Prichard being disciplined.
Law enforcement agencies are required to investigate and then report any disciplinary action taken to the Florida Department of Law Enforcment (FDLE).
“We don’t have any record of having received anything from the Broward Sheriff’s Office,” said Glen Hopkins, bureau chief of Standards for the Florida Department of Law Enforcement’s Criminal Justice Standards & Training Commission. “By statute, they are required to investigate and forward us that information.”
The Broward State Attorney’s Office said it was never forwarded the case for review either.
BSO has not explained why the suspension was not reported to FDLE or if it will do so now. Hopkins said the department is still required to file a report, after which a review process will begin.
“The penalty guideline for that offense [falsification of documents] is prospective suspension to revocation,” Hopkins said. “That means the commission can do anything from putting that individual on a suspension for up to two years, all the way up to revocation of the [law enforcement] certificate.”
FDLE certifies officers and monitors their conduct though reports that law enforcement agencies are required to submit and it's Criminal Justice Standards & Training Commission holds quarterly disciplinary hearings. At its most recent meeting held last October, the commission stripped 118 officers of their certifications for various reasons, eight of them were for making false statements on official documents and nine for perjury. Another 103 officers voluntarily surrendered their certifications.
An officer who is decertified or whose certification is suspended is prohibited from working in law enforcement for the duration of the suspension.
Prichard, 28, who could not be reached for comment, became Lamberti’s executive officer in 2010, three years after an arbitrator upheld the 10-day unpaid suspension and six years after the incident.
The incident for which he was disciplined goes back to the night of Sept. 22, 2004, when Derrick Miller called 911 to report pit bulls had entered his fenced backyard west of Fort Lauderdale in unincorporated Broward County. His young son and the child’s mother were visiting his home at the time.
Miller told the 911 operator the pit bulls were "killing his dog," which was tethered to a trailer in his backyard. BSO records show the dispatcher noted that she could hear dogs “yelping in the background.” Prichard was dispatched to the scene but, instead of going there, he called Miller on the phone. Miller said he expected Prichard to arrive but no help came.
Meanwhile neighbors had gathered at the scene. The pit bulls continued mauling Miller’s pet until their owner arrived and pulled them off. The pit bulls’ owner nursed Miller’s dog for several hours while waiting on Prichard to arrive, but he never came. Meanwhile the dog died.
INTERNAL AFFAIRS COMPLAINT
Two days later, Miller complained to BSO over the matter, triggering the Internal Affairs inquiry. Prichard told investigators he was unaware that Miller’s dog was being attacked, because during their phone conversation, Miller said the pit bulls were “just sitting in his back yard,” according to the investigation summary.
A nine-week investigation concluded that Prichard had failed to take appropriate action; was untruthful in his daily logs about the incident and engaged in conduct unbecoming a deputy. A 10-day suspension without pay was recommended.
A disciplinary committee reviewed the case and upheld the suspension. Prichard then requested binding arbitration, which ended in 2007 with the original findings and disciplinary action being upheld.
“In reviewing the penalty of a ten day suspension, I reviewed the records submitted by both parties as to other officers who were disciplined,” independent arbitrator J.H. Jordan wrote in his Sept. 20, 2007 ruling. “In doing that examination and comparing the infractions and false testimony of Prichard with the other officer disciplinary suspensions, I find that the ten day suspension of Deputy Prichard meets the accepted standards of fairness and was consistent with the other disciplinary actions BSO has taken.”
Jordan also ruled that Prichard had no authority to disregard a 911 call he was dispatched to and criticized his rationale for doing so.
“First, Prichard placed great emphasis and explained his actions because he claims Miller told him the dogs were ‘just sitting.’ That statement flies in the face of reality of the known characteristics of the attack dogs,” Jordan wrote.
“If anyone knows anything about pit bulls, it is that breed just does not quit in the middle of a dog attack and then just quietly sit down.”
Prichard joined BSO in 2001 and served 14 months in Iraq after being hired. He opened a campaign account to run for the Davie Town Council in 2006 but withdrew from the race.
He is also chairman of the 3,500-plus-member Broward Farm Bureau, a non-profit advocacy organization for farmers, ranchers, nurserymen and other agricultural interests.
When contacted about the unreported suspension, BSO Media Relations Director Jim Leljedal said he did not care to discuss it. He later added in an e-mail that “the IA incident involving Dep. Don Prichard took place long before Al Lamberti became sheriff.”
While the incident occurred during the tenure of former sheriff Ken Jenne, the discipline was finalized under Lamberti. Asked what steps Lamberti would now take, Leljedal declined comment.
Elgin Jones may be contacted at EJones@SFLTimes.com
*Pictured Above is BSO Deputy Don Prichard.