LAKELAND, Fla. - Polk County State Attorney Jerry Hill hand delivered a scathing letter to Lakeland Police Chief Lisa Womack Tuesday afternoon calling into question the integrity of her department.
This latest problem to plague the chief comes on the heels of an internal sex scandal and an infamous bra-shaking incident during a a traffic stop.
Hill believes that actions taken by five officers could result in 40 pending DUI cases being tossed out.
In the two-page letter, Hill said he can no longer trust testimony given by the officers in wake of one of those DUI officer Nick Edds admitting to a judge he had fellow officers notarize blank arrest documents and then filled in the details later.
Hill also claims Lt. Hans Lehman, who heads the department of internal affairs, tipped off Sgt. Ray Lloyd about being under investigation, resulting in Lloyd doctoring an arrest report that had been finalized in October 2012.
The incident "leaves us with some serious doubts about our ability to work with your internal affairs department," wrote Hill. "Is the goal of the unit to help us seek the truth or tip off officers under investigation before we are able to conclude our inquiry?"
Under hours of questioning, Lloyd first denied to State Attorney investigators that he had a conversation with Lehman about the investigation to an admission that Lehman advised him how to fix the issues on the computer," Hills letter stated.
Hill added that Lloyd that he was advised by Lehman to not be specific in his answers and paint himself into a corner when providing testimony to Hill's investigators.
The letter concluded with Hill claiming a lack of training and supervision led to Edds' problems.
"Now, my office and the citizens of Lakeland and Polk County must deal with the fact that the approximately 40 active cases that Edds investigated and is an essential witness (mostly DUI's) will have to be dismissed," Hill wrote.
Jeffrey Swartz, a law professor at Cooley Law School in Tampa said each DUI case will have to be examined individually to see if they can still be prosecuted.
"If i am a prosecutor, I am looking for a way to present the evidence and preserve the cases, which I think that there are ways that they can do that," explained Swartz. "If you are a defense attorney, I think you are basically licking your chops."
In a written statement Tuesday night, Chief Womack explained that she already addressed her concern regarding to the DUI cases to Hill in a meeting that took place last week.
"I have already addressed the issues and I have called for an audit of every DUI case over the past year," wrote Womack. "I also instituted a process that has a supervisor reviewing all case files set for court to ensure that everything is in order for proper prosecution purposes."
Womack also said she believes in her department and has full confidence that internal affairs processes are working correctly.
"The community is seeing results and we are holding those that disgraced the Lakeland Police Department accountable," Womack added.
In the past two days, five officers have either resigned or been fired. Most were connected to the sex scandal.
The City Commission has scheduled a public meeting at the Lakeland Center's Youkey Theatre on Monday, July 22 at 6:00 p.m. to allow the citizens of Lakeland the opportunity to address their concerns about the issues facing LPD.
A Police Advisory Commission has also been formed and is charged with reviewing the current situation with LPD and to develop recommendations for making cultural improvements to support accountability. The commission is co-chaired by Joe P. Ruthven and Polk State College President Eileen Holden.
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