Questionable judgment. Police Brutality. Favoritism and preferential treatment.
The Tallahassee Police Department has faced those charges and others concerning how it handles cases. It's now facing an image crisis as it continues a sexual assault investigation involving Florida State University quarterback Jameis Winston, but questions about TPD's credibility have been circulating for years.
The Department lost a lawsuit from the family of a murdered informant, and is being sued for police brutality by a woman who was arrested for a DUI. Now, it’s in hot water again over a rape investigation involving Florida State University Quarterback Jameis Winston that languished for almost a year:
“What winds up happening is, it makes the people of a city or county have less faith in the work that the law enforcement agency does within the community," says local criminal defense attorney Chuck Hobbs.
He's represented former Florida State University football players, one of the accused in the FAMU hazing case and Denelio Bradshaw, who was found guilty in the murder of police informant Rachel Hoffman.
“What’s unfortunate about that is that TPD clears literally thousands of cases a year," Hobbs said. "But all it takes is one bad incident that gets national press and local press, to make people stop and wonder, if this happened...then what goes on on a day-to-day basis that we don’t see?”
Florida State University criminology professor Dan Mears agrees. But he also points out that discretion is a big part of an officer’s job—and there’s not much research into how decisions are made:
“You have a lot of gray area cases that law enforcement deal with on a daily basis. But sometimes they don’t exercise judgment in the best way. That’s not an excuse for misconduct, it is to say that what law enforcement officers do on a day-to-day basis entails really difficult decisions.”
Those decisions, for better or worse, become the basis on which a department is judged, and Mears says, "the challenge for us in the public, is that we lack a context for how many of your decisions are good ones, and how many aren’t?”