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Former Tarpon Springs cop accused of child abuse

TARPON SPRINGS — A retired Tarpon Springs police officer, once cleared of using excessive force in the death of a drug suspect outside the Police Department's Cops 'N Kids Center, is accused of injuring a 12-year-old boy Wednesday at the same location.

The department has referred a charge of child abuse against 41-year-old Romando Black to the Pinellas-Pasco State Attorney's Office, which will determine if the charge will be filed, Tarpon Springs police said Friday afternoon in a statement.

According to Tarpon Springs police, Black grabbed the boy by the neck and threw him into a chair when the boy and another child were arguing during an after-school program at the center at 500 Harrison St.

The boy suffered a "cervical strain and minor shoulder injury," police said.

Black could not be reached for comments Friday evening.

Black, who worked for the department from August 1990 until he retired on medical disability in April 2003, has been removed as a volunteer at the center, police said.

The former officer, who grew up in Tarpon Springs and graduated from Tarpon Springs High School, ran the Cops 'N Kids Center off and on for several years. Most recently, he has been a volunteer.

He came under scrutiny in 2000 when a man he was trying to arrest died after hitting his head on a curb. Police at the time said Black was in plainclothes and standing outside the youth center when a man approached and asked to buy crack cocaine.

Police said the man, 39-year-old William Anderson of New Port Richey, hit Black in the arm and tried to run when the officer pulled out his badge. Black said he was attempting to restrain Anderson when he hit his head on the edge of a curb.

Anderson died about a week later.

Black was cleared of using excessive force in that incident in three separate investigations, one each by the Police Department, the Pinellas-Pasco State Attorney's Office and, later, the U.S. Justice Department.

Anderson's family sued Black. Black also was sued in February 2002, along with then-police Chief Mark LeCouris, by a minister who said the two men harassed him and tarnished his name.

The Rev. James B. Warren said then that Black falsified evidence and lied on arrest reports when Warren was accused of swinging a metal rod at his niece in 2001. The charge was later dropped by the State Attorney's Office.

The Florida League of Cities, which represented the city in the lawsuits, ultimately settled both suits, though city officials said at the time that both were business decisions made by the league and not admissions of guilt.

Black also was investigated twice by the Florida Department of Law Enforcement. In the first case, which began in the mid 1990s, confidential informers told investigators that Black tipped off drug dealers to forthcoming arrest warrants. One informer said Black often went to Miami with two known drug dealers to buy cocaine.

The FDLE closed the investigation in December 1998 because "prosecutable cases could not be made" against Black and another officer whose actions were under review.

No charges arose from the second investigation, either, which wrapped up in 2006. In that case, FDLE agents spent three years looking into allegations of criminal misconduct by several officers, including Black.

Former Tarpon Springs cop accused of child abuse 12/03/10 [Last modified: Friday, December 3, 2010 7:59pm]
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