FORT LAUDERDALE — Robert Bates, director of the city of Ft. Lauderdale’s Office of Professional Standards (OPS), which is designated to investigate bias, and other complaints made by workers and managers, could now end up being the target of a probe himself.
Officials with the Fraternal Order of Police, Lodge 31 police union are calling for an investigation into the whereabouts of an Aug. 30, 2005 complaint Detective Nina Justice filed against assistant city manager David Hebert.
The issue surfaced after Bates responded to numerous public records requests made by the South Florida Times seeking access to the case file.
“This is to advise that police officer Nina Justice, accompanied by a co-worker, visited the Office of Professional Standards sometime after Hurricane
Wilma and spoke to us about an incident that took place during the distribution of ice at one of the city’s parks,” Bates wrote in the March 18 internal memo to the city’s attorneys. “At that time, she specifically informed us that she was not interested in proceeding with filing a complaint; consequently, we did not open a file, nor make any notes of her visit to the office,” it reads.
The denial, however, appears to contradict documents uncovered by the South Florida Times, including a copy of the actual complaint, as well as the recollection of the union official who represented Justice in the matter.
The two-page complaint details an alleged heated confrontation between Hebert and several police officers that occurred in front of countless witnesses, including commissioner Carlton Moore.
“While carrying out this assignment, a male who I later found out was Mr. David Hebert and would be acting executive officer of our department,
displayed some of the most unprofessional behavior on the part of a city employee that I have witnessed in my 17 year career as a Fort Lauderdale Police Officer,” Justice wrote in the complaint dated Aug. 30, 2005.
It took place at Joseph C. Carter Park while the city was distributing ice and other supplies to residents in the aftermath of Hurricane Wilma.
The complaint describes an apparently irritated Hebert, whom Justice said she attempted to calm down.
According to the complaint, “He began clapping his hand while simultaneously stomping his feet and yelling, “Officer, officer I need these people out of here so I can get this truck backed up!”’
Bates did not return calls, or respond to emails seeking comment. Union officials believe the documents may fall under Florida’s public record statutes, which require them to be maintained for a certain number of years.
“We need answers about what happened to the complaint and the records, so I went to Internal Affairs to request an investigation, but were told to file it instead with the city attorney,” acknowledged Jack Lokeinsky, president of the 464-member Fraternal Order of Police (FOP) union.
City attorney Harry Stewart said he was aware of the issue, and acknowledged certain records are required to be maintained.
“We’re going to take what he [Bates] says at face value, but if she left a copy of the complaint with him, or submitted it, we’ll go from there,” Stewart explained.
Justice, who declined to be interviewed, filed the complaint through her supervisor, Capt. Michael Gregory, with copies going to Bates, the union, and Anthony C. Williams, the president of the Black Police Officers Association.
“She called me to say she was being ordered to go to OPS to give a statement, and I went with her,” Lokeinsky recalled. “When we got there, Robert
Bates had a copy of her complaint in his hand. We discussed it and he told me she would have to give a statement by herself because she was not the target, so I left.”
“She called me later and said she gave the statement,” recalled Lokiensky, who said the union will file a complaint with the state attorneys office, if necessary. “I have a problem if our members are filing complaints and being misled that they are being investigated,” he said.
Photo by Elgin Jones/SFT Staff:Jack Lokeinsky