Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Investigation Supports Deputies' Actions

Deputies acted within the policy and procedure of the Collier County Sheriff’s Office and applicable law when they approached two teenagers in April while attempting to serve an arrest warrant on one of them, an internal investigation has found.

Although the teenagers they approached turned out not to include the person named in the warrant, the investigation found that the two plain-clothed deputies properly displayed official agency-issued badges and produced the official agency-issued identification card upon request.

In addition to being within CCSO policy, the actions were within the applicable law, policy and procedures of other law enforcement agencies, including the U.S. Marshal’s Service. With that in mind, CCSO is continually looking at ways to enhance policy and procedure when issues are identified that can be improved upon.

During the review of this incident, the girls voiced concerns that the deputies may have been people impersonating law enforcement officers. CCSO is aware that people have impersonated law enforcement officers, albeit rare. The agency actively investigates all reports of people impersonating police officers. With this in mind, plainclothes officers display distinct law enforcement badges, identification, etc.

On April 4, 2008, two CCSO Fugitive Warrants Bureau deputies were searching for a wanted juvenile in the area of 10th Street North and Fleischmann Boulevard. Sgt. John Gogia and Cpl. Gordon Lee were advised by the wanted juvenile’s father that the wanted girl should be walking in that area. At approximately 1:55 P.M., Sgt. Gogia and Cpl. Lee observed two teenage girls, one of whom resembled the described physical characteristics of the wanted juvenile.

Believing that one of the girls may be the wanted juvenile they were looking for, the deputies pulled their vehicle off the roadway into the driveway of the City of Naples Water Treatment Plant located near the intersection of 10th Street North and Fleischmann Boulevard. Cpl. Lee exited the vehicle first and addressed the girls by asking their names. Cpl. Lee was in plainclothes at the time, but had a badge prominently displayed around his neck and a second badge affixed to his law enforcement utility belt. As Cpl. Lee inquired as to the girls’ identities, they began backing away from him; displaying the mannerisms that they were going to flee.

As the girls began to act as if they were going to flee, Sgt. Gogia, also in plainclothes and displaying a badge around his neck, came around the rear of the vehicle and observed their actions. Believing the girls were going to flee, Sgt. Gogia grabbed the wrist of the girl he believed to be the wanted subject. As he grabbed her wrist, Sgt. Gogia lost his footing and fell to ground, causing the girl to also fall to the ground. The fall caused abrasions on the girl’s feet and legs.

After falling, the girl demanded to see Sgt. Gogia’s official CCSO identification which he produced. Shortly after, Sgt. Gogia and Cpl. Lee were able to confirm that the girl was not the wanted subject. Also, the father of the wanted juvenile drove by the area and observed the incident. The father confirmed that the deputies were in the area where he described where his daughter should have been, but the girl they had stopped was not his daughter.

As the incident between Sgt. Gogia and the girl unfolded, her friend ran from the scene to Fleischmann Park, where she made contact with a park employee who called 911. The recording of the phone call depicts the teen upset and describing how she believed that her friend may have been abducted. During the description, she acknowledged the deputies had badges displayed around their necks, but still felt that they were not legitimate deputies. As a result of the call, Naples Police officers responded to the area and quickly realized that the incident involved the Collier County Sheriff’s Office.

After the incident, the girl who fell was immediately offered medical attention, which she refused. Her mother was also immediately summoned to the scene. Upon arrival, medical attention was again offered, and refused. The girls then returned to their homes and parents.