Police officers often have access to significant amounts of cash and valuable personal property when they investigate a suspected crime. Suspects leave such items behind if they are arrested. While the vast majority of officers resist the temptation to take possession of these valuables, some are unable to resist. The recent arrest of three Polk County sheriff’s deputies demonstrates the consequences for officers who do not resist temptation.
The allegations against the officers
According to a press release issued by the sheriff’s office, the three deputies were arrested on March 19 after an investigation that began on March 15. The investigation began when a woman who was arrested during a traffic stop phoned the sheriff’s office to inquire about her missing cellphone and $723 in cash. The stop in Winter Haven was initially conducted by one of the officers who is now a suspect. The other two officers responded as backup and arrested the woman. The officers submitted 13 items as evidence from the woman’s car as evidence, but the cash was not included in the list.
A few days later, the three deputies realized that the cash was missing, and they decided to replace it with their personal funds. Investigators found a second arrest report dated March 16 that added the cash to the 13 items of evidence that were previously submitted. The deputy who prepared the supplemental report used the login information of one of the two deputies involved to sign the report.
One of the suspects then contacted a Property & Evidence officer and asked if the money could somehow be replaced. The officer did not directly answer the question, but she reported the call to her supervisor.
The three suspects have been charged with a variety of crimes, including tampering with evidence, conspiracy to tamper with evidence, conspiracy to fabricate evidence, official misconduct and forgery. All three deputies resigned immediately after they were informed of the charges against them.
The three deputies must face the charges against them. They will have the opportunity to enter pleas to the charges, and if they cannot negotiate a plea agreement, they will stand trial. If convicted they could face years of imprisonment and significant fines. Anyone facing similar charges may wish to consult an experienced criminal attorney for an evaluation of the evidence, an estimate of the strength of their case and assistance in negotiating a guilty plea with the prosecutor.