READ.THE.REPORT, Part 1: Who Were The Chief’s Favorites?

In November 2010, about 4 months before Lisa Womack took over as LPD chief, the LPD SWAT team made news by winning its second consecutive national SWAT roundup. It defeated 52 other teams from around the state, country, and world.

Here’s The Ledger’s story. And guess who is quoted, throughout, as the leader of the triumphant team:

The Police Department has a long tradition of competing and placing high, said Sgt. David Woolverton, who led this year’s first-place team. It puts Lakeland on the map in law enforcement circles.

“Ask the Los Angeles Police Department where Lakeland, Fla., is,” he said. “They know.”

Indeed.

Now, let’s look at the State Attorney’s report and Officer Steve Sherman’s statement.I quoted this passage in my most recent piece. [ed–I mistakenly called him Scott Sherman in that post. I apologize for the error.] I raise it again because it is important:

“He heard from other officers of an incident that occurred while Sgt. David Woolverton and the Lakeland Police Department S.W.A.T. team were in a sanctioned competition in Orlando a while back. He was told that Sgt. Woolverton went missing from a competition for an extended period of time and nobody could locate him. He said that it was told that Sgt. Woolverton was discovered to have left to engage in a sexual encounter with a woman he was having an affair with. [ed–Not Eberle] He believed the incident to have been investigated by LPD, but no disciplinary action was taken to his knowledge. He believed Woolverton to be one of the officers at LPD [that] Administration has shown favoritism towards.[emphasis mine]

The SWAT Roundup seems to be held each year in November in Orlando. In 2011, after Womack became chief, LPD finished 2nd. You’ll notice from this excerpt from the LPD blog that Woolverton is again a big part of the SWAT team — along with Bryan McNabb, who is also one of the officers accused in the Eberle case.

In 2012, LPD finished 7th, and I can’t seem to find any listing of the team members. So I don’t know if Woolverton participated. And I don’t know which specific competition saw the alleged disappearance for sex. I do know that the report says Eberle straight up accused Woolverton of rape concerning an incident she claims occurred inside the PD around 2009. Woolverton denies it, but wouldn’t take a polygraph–which, of course, is not proof of anything. The State Attorney’s Office said it didn’t have enough to prosecute, but it did not exonerate anyone.

Likewise, it proves nothing that Sherman identified Woolverton as an administration favorite to investigators.

It also proves nothing that Sherman claimed Felicia Wilson was “another officer who got away with conduct that was unbecoming of an officer and potentially criminal in nature.”

Felicia Wilson’s record is at the core of the State Attorney/LPD dustup. Just google her name and LPD and you’ll have a sense of the trouble that has long swirled around her. Or just read the report for Sherman’s catalogue of her alleged misdeeds.

So what does it say that Womack’s LPD promoted Felicia Wilson in July of 2012? That’s just one year ago. Presumably the chief approves promotions, if not orders them. Here’s the announcement.

It also proves nothing for Sherman to allege, as he does, that former officer Jimmy Mock “was threatened by Chief Womack through Asst. Chief Larry Giddens that he could lose his good standing and benefits of a retired LPD officer if he continued to post negative things about LPD.”

I don’t know what “benefits” means in that context.

In fact, I don’t “know” anything. But I have a hypothesis. And it runs counter to the narrative that LPD, city government, and various supporters are trying to establish. The local powers-that-be assert that Chief Womack has gamely tried to confront and reform her agency’s longstanding pathologies and should be given time to finish the job.

But I see no evidence she ever started the job.

I see evidence that the only confrontation she sought with her agency’s pathologies related to personal loyalty and submission to her authority. That’s exactly what Sherman alleges. And Felicia Wilson’s promotion just one year ago is exhibit number 1. It’s very, very hard to spin that one.

But my hypothesis is not proof. It should be tested with rigorous investigation. Who is doing that? Did Woolverton receive administration favor? What’s the deal with Felicia Wilson’s promotion? Did Womack use her assistant chief as a surrogate for a threat?

Who is asking these questions in the investigation? I submit that no one is. Just read the account of the investigation from this morning in The Ledger.

Asst. Chief Larry Giddens is the prime source for the story. He’s describing the scope and content and of the investigation. This is the same Larry Giddens accused of threatening Jimmy Mock on Lisa Womack’s behalf.

Ledger folks, ya’ll have done a terrific job. I just want to constructively suggest that the next time you talk to Giddens or Womack you ask them if they are investigating themselves.

The same goes for the City Commission. This notion that legally you are somehow barred from asking your police chief if she can effectively investigate herself is obtuse codswallop. Legal advice like that is yet another mark in the Tim-McCausland-must-go file.

Understand, this investigation is going to stop with line officers. It’s going to get no higher than Capt. John Thomason, who just retired. It will declare that the poor chief did all she could, but Roger Boatner’s culture of corruption overwhelmed her. Just give her more time. This time it’s different. Nowhere will it ask or answer why Womack promoted Felicia Wilson just a year ago.

People like me will look at it and laugh and then call for a real investigation. But we will have wasted 4-6 weeks and the peak of outrage. Scandal fatigue will have long since set in. People will just tune out and the powers-that-be will keep their jobs and pensions. Nothing else will get fixed. That’s the game plan here, folks.

You want to prove me wrong? You want to show the community you’re serious, Lakeland city government? Tell Doug and Tim it’s time to go. They are unnecessary to any investigation. That will buy you credibility and time by showing you realize that something this serious demands consequences. And then tell the chief, in public, to her face, that you expect to know if she empowered these people. Prove to us you tried to clean things up.

I will not be holding my breath.

4 thoughts on “READ.THE.REPORT, Part 1: Who Were The Chief’s Favorites?

  1. Informative and well said. I hope others will not allow this to be swept under the carpet. I’m not sure I agree that the City Attorney shares equally with the Manager and Chief in blame but you may know something I don’t. I will be watching the Commission’s next moves and will join you in calling for their political heads if they do nothing. These Commissioners need to grow a backbone and do what is right and what I believe the overwhelming majority of Lakelanders want.

  2. Is it possible that Wilson had the cleanest record of the qualified candidates? That’s a terrifying thought.

  3. For the past two and a half years, the Lakeland Police Department has been led by Chief Lisa Womack, who come to Lakeland following a career in the Dallas-Fort Worth, Texas Metroplex. Since her arrival, Chief Womack has worked hard to restore LPD’S accreditation in CALEA following the loss several years ago.

    During the past couple of months, the department has been struck with several shameful experiences that has brought disgrace to the individuals who wore the uniform. Sexual misbehaviour, DUI charges having to be dismissed after paperwork was done by other officers, and the infamous “shake your bra” incident helped to bring embarrassment to the department.

    While some of these incidences occurred during Chief Womack’s tenure, the records apparently show a story of misbehavior long before Chief Womack arrived in Florida. Apparantly this record dates back several years, going back to the tenure of Chief Womack’s predecessor, who is now an administrator in charge of Human Relations with the Polk County Sheriff’s Department. Since these incidences have come forward, she has made major changes to the department’s General Orders. And she has made other changes, including the dismissal of many of those involved.

    Unfortunately, several members of the Police Advisory Boafd, who was appointed by Mayor Gow Fields, chose to resign before the group held it’s first meeting. If I may, please allow me to recommend former Lakeland Mayor Frank O’Reilly, now a member of the Polk County School Board, to serve as the Chairman in a temporary role. I have always found him to be an honourable person, and his prior experience and knowledge of city government will hope move out city forward.

  4. From this morning’s Lakeland Ledger:

    “Ana Rivera, president of the Puerto Rican-Hispanic Chamber of Commerce, resigned Monday from the Lakeland Police Department advisory commission, the SIXTH person to leave the group handpicked by the mayor.

    “Rivera announced her decision in a phone call to Mayor Gow Fields…she cited her personal schedule, including organizing chamber events and helping her husband prepare for upcoming heart surgery, as reasons…

    “Rivera’s resignation brings the number of members to nine, down from an initial 15.”

    With respects to Mrs. Rivera and her husband’s health situation, I have to wonder why the Mayor didn’t bother asking their willingness to become part of the committee, and what, if any, possible issues they may have had before asking them to serve on this panel.

    Again quoting from the story:

    “The resignations began with the original co-chairs, Polk State College president Eileen Holden and businessman Joe P. Ruthven…citing problems that included the commission’s large size…Ruthven immediately followed for similar reasons.”

    Maybe a group of this size is actually good to bring various factions and areas of our city together, and not selected members of Lakeland’s elite like the Chamber of Commerce and the Lakeland Leadership classes. I refer to an article printed in the Ledger last Friday (“As Lakeland expands, Differences between North and South More Apparent”). It does make for interesting reading, and I would urge everyone to take a look online, if possible.

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