Make us your home page

Today’s top headlines delivered to you daily.

(View our Privacy Policy)

Brooksville police chief owes loyalty to public, not officer

Malloy and Reed had it in Adam-12. So did Sipowicz and Kelly and his long line of replacements on NYPD Blue.

I'm talking about the brotherhood of cops. Outsiders like me had to learn about it from TV. Insiders say this is one Hollywood cliche that is more or less true: The bond among fellow cops is tighter than among the rest of us cubicle-dwelling drudges.

Deputies are "like your kids,'' said former Hernando Sheriff Tom Mylander. "It's a family, let's face it — a tightly knit family.''

They share danger. They back up each other. And — because this is what you do for brothers, sisters and sons — they sometimes overlook one another's flaws.

What else could explain Brooksville police Chief George Turner's ridiculous statement that Shawn Terry is a "fine officer"?

In case you missed John Frank's story in Sunday's Times, Terry has been the subject of numerous complaints, investigations or reprimands over his 10-year career.

He was referred to a psychologist when his superiors at the Hernando Sheriff's Office noticed a large number of the kind of charges, including battery on a law enforcement officer, that indicated he had an undesirable knack for confrontational arrests.

When he was assigned by the Sheriff's Office to investigate the case of a former stripper who accused her ex-husband of abusing their daughter, the stripper said Terry had sex with her. He denied it, but refused to take a stress test for an internal investigation and soon jumped to the Brooksville Police Department.

Among the highlights of his three-year career there is a sworn statement that he had not coached a witness in a drug case. An in-car camera, however, caught the whole thing on video, and in a separate case a few months later a defense attorney was able to use this incident to help undermine Terry's credibility.

So instead of "fine,'' how about dishonest, a bully, a liability — the kind of guy who shouldn't be a cop anywhere unless he and his employers take serious steps at rehabilitation?

Why won't Turner say so? Maybe because, among the rank-and-file, it would be interpreted as disloyal, as the boss turning against one of his own.

Sheriffs and police chiefs are sometimes penalized for weeding out bad cops. It's one reason, I believe, so many members of his own force campaigned against Sheriff Richard Nugent in 2004. Mylander said disciplining deputies is one of the hardest parts of the job — but absolutely necessary.

"It's like I told the guys,'' he said. "We can't have the agency destroyed by just one person, and we're going to do what we need to do to maintain its credibility.''

The credibility of the Brooksville Police Department, under former Chief Ed Tincher, took a hit when it hired Terry. But, then again, it never had much under Tincher. The shame is that Turner had a chance to restore the department's reputation — a chance he risks blowing if he continues defending Turner out of a misplaced sense of loyalty.

Because, wonderful as this strong feeling of partnership among officers can be, they aren't family; they're public servants.

Maybe Turner needs to be reminded of this. He pledged to "protect and serve'' the people of Brooksville, not cowboy officers like Shawn Terry.

Brooksville police chief owes loyalty to public, not officer 11/24/09 [Last modified: Tuesday, November 24, 2009 6:41pm]
Photo reprints | Article reprints

© 2017 Tampa Bay Times


Join the discussion: Click to view comments, add yours

  1. Shooting sends man to hospital in St. Pete


    ST. PETERSBURG — Police were investigating a shooting that occurred around 4:40 p.m. on Tuesday and sent a man to the hospital.

  2. Police: Man tries to lure child with puppy in Polk County


    Times staff

    HAINES CITY — A man was arrested Sunday after he tried to entice a young girl into his camper to view a puppy, according to police.

    Dale Collins, 63, faces a charge of luring or enticing a child under the age of 12. [Photo courtesy of the Polk County Sheriff's Office]
  3. Scaramucci on leaks: 'I'm going to fire everybody'


    WASHINGTON — Anthony Scaramucci, President Donald Trump's new communications director, vowed Tuesday to purge the White House staff of disloyal aides in an effort to crack down on leaks, as another member of the press staff resigned from a West Wing reeling from an unfolding shake-up.

  4. Editorial: Coming together to reduce car thefts


    The simple, knee-jerk response to the juvenile car theft epidemic in Pinellas County would be to crack down on offenders with an increased police presence and stiffer sentences. Thankfully, local community leaders did not stop there. As detailed in a recent Tampa Bay Times follow-up to its 
As detailed in a recent Tampa Bay Times follow-up to its "Hot Wheels" investigation into youth car thefts, a variety of ideas from multiple directions increases the odds of actually solving the cause and not just treating the symptoms.

  5. Editorial: Floridians' health care now at risk in Washington


    The health care for millions of Floridians is now at risk. The U.S. Senate's dramatic vote Tuesday to begin debate on repealing and replacing the Affordable Care Act with no idea what will happen is a dangerous gamble with American lives and the national economy. Barring an unexpected bipartisan compromise, a handful of …

    Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., dramatically returned to the Senate for the first time since his brain cancer was diagnosed and cast the key vote that enabled Vice President Mike Pence to break the 50-50 tie and allow the health care debate to proceed.