BROOKSVILLE — Just before 8 p.m. on Nov. 26, Brooksville Police Officer Elvira Ozborn drove north on routine patrol along a dimly lit stretch of U.S. 41 near State Road 50 when a woman draped in a dark-colored blanket suddenly appeared out of nowhere.
Ozborn had no time to react, and never touched the brakes before Deborah Taylor's body crashed over the hood of the police cruiser. Although the impact of Taylor's skull was enough to crack the windshield, Ozborn never left her vehicle to render aid.
Rather, a video from a camera inside Ozborn's cruiser showed the officer sat inside her vehicle and sobbed hysterically while bystanders called 911 and tried to steer traffic around the accident scene. It was only after a uniformed Hernando Sheriff's deputy arrived a few minutes later that she calmed down enough to speak in a normal tone.
As a result of the incident, Ozborn, a two-year veteran of the force, resigned from her job four days later after meeting with police Chief George Turner and viewing the in-car video.
Now, three weeks after she left the department, Ozborn wants her job back, saying she was asked to resign under duress. Steve Klapka, the local representative with the Fraternal Order of Police, said that although no formal complaint has been filed, he hopes to get a hearing with Turner and other city officials to discuss the matter.
Ozborn was unavailable for comment and asked Klapka not to release a copy of her letter to Turner asking to be re-instated.
"It's a complicated situation," Klapka said. "But I think she felt pressured to resign, and that's why we plan to fight it."
Turner, however, considers Ozborn unfit to serve as a police officer on his force.
"We're not entertaining that," Turner said of Ozborn's request to be reinstated. "She made the decision to leave and that's about it, as far as I'm concerned."
In his office earlier this week, Turner played the video taken from Ozborn's vehicle for a reporter, which he said captured the immediate moments following the accident. In the audio, Ozborn is heard behind the wheel sobbing while witnesses attempt to get her attention.
Turner said it took nearly three minutes before Ozborn turned on her emergency lights. Bystanders can be heard in the background shouting into the car asking her to turn them on.
Later, a deputy who knew Ozborn from the police academy tried to calm her down and eventually convinced her to get out of the vehicle.
After the accident, Ozborn was taken to police headquarters and told to take the rest of the night off. When she returned to work three days later, Turner played the video for her.
"I asked her what she wanted to do and she offered to resign," Turner said. "I don't know what else to add. It is what it is."
Taylor, 46, who was chasing a dog that had slipped from its collar that night, suffered a head injury, but was later released after a brief hospital stay. Turner said the woman was later cited for a pedestrian infraction. He described Taylor as homeless and living in woods near the accident.
Ozborn was not hurt in the accident. Turner said a preliminary investigation cleared her of any wrongdoing and showed she was traveling below the posted 35 mph speed limit.
However, Turner said that it was Ozborn's emotional tangent that convinced him that she may not have what it takes to be a law enforcement officer.
"Law enforcement is unpredictable and it can come with a lot of stress," Turner said. "When I asked, she said she wasn't sure she was up to the job anymore".
According to human resource records, Ozborn was hired in January 2009, less than five months after completing law enforcement courses and training at Pasco-Hernando Community College. It was her first job in police work. In addition to Brooksville, she also applied for jobs with the Citrus County Sheriff's Office, New Port Richey, Tarpon Springs and the University of South Florida.
Ozborn's previous job experience included mostly administrative or clerical work. Before joining the police department, she was laid off from her job at a contracting company in Hudson.
Turner described Ozborn as "intelligent, friendly, and all-around nice person." Her job included mostly patrol work. And though she had no disciplinary actions against her, Turner noted she hadn't done anything to distinguish herself on the force.
Turner said he never suggested to Ozborn that she resign. But he admitted she would have needed counseling if she were ever to return to police work.
"Actually, I feel sorry for her," Turner said. "I think she really wanted to be a cop. But there are a lot of people who take the job only to realize that it's not for them."
Logan Neill can be reached at (352) 848-1435 or firstname.lastname@example.org.