State attorney gives scathing presentation to Lakeland Commissioners about flawed police department

SAO had to drop dozens of LPD cases

LAKELAND, Fla. - State Attorney Jerry Hill gave a blistering presentation to Lakeland City Commissioners Friday about major flaws at the police department.

The board requested to hear from the state attorney after numerous public complaints he's made about the embattled department.

Hill took commissioners through dozens of LPD cases within the last year that his office was forced to drop or reduce charges due to mistakes made by LPD officers.

"Basic things are not being done that will ultimately impact cases," he told the board during an hour and a half presentation.

The mistakes range from officers failing to write reports, not interviewing key witnesses, to giving inaccurate testimony.

He's not the only one with harsh criticism of the department. Hill brought up some recent courtroom transcripts where judges also had harsh criticism of LPD.

In one transcript, a judge said, "I don't have an affidavit up here to tell me what's going on which, oh well, it's probably because it's LPD."

"There's a complete lack of leadership in your administration and it's letting them down," he said

Chief Lisa Womack sat in the back of the room and listened to the presentation but was not asked to respond or participate.

Several commissioners defended the department, suggesting that Hill and his colleagues may be too hard on its officers.

"The general feeling I'm hearing is that officers fear the state attorney because they're worried he's going to make another statement out of them," said Commissioner Justin Troller.

Hill responded by saying LPD is not being treated any differently than the other agencies.

"Give me a case I can prosecute," he said. "Lakeland is not being singled out. Lakeland is not being picked on."

Commissioners specifically asked for statistics on how many cases the SAO successfully prosecuted versus those that had to be dropped.

Hill said he did not have those numbers available.

So far, the majority of commissioners have stood by the chief, but that could change in light of the latest revelations.

The city manager said he needed to sit down and research the various examples of cases being dropped that the state attorney presented.

Even the chief said she needs to look into it.

"Many of the cases that were brought up I am unfamiliar with, and we'll check into all the information to determine why a follow-up did not occur," she said.
 

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