New report says administrators at juvenile detention center violated policy during riot

AVON PARK, Fla. - A new state report blasts the administrators of the Avon Park Youth Academy for a riot that occurred in August.

The draft report from the Office of the Inspector General found that staff members made serious policy violations that night when more than 60 teens turned violent.

The report says former administrator Garrett Zeegers "failed to ensure the safety and security" of the teens by "not having an effective riot and major disturbance plan."

In fact, during an interview with the investigator, an assistant administrator said he was unaware of a plan to address a riot. The report said the staff was inadequately trained.

The 911 calls from the night of the riot sheds light on the chaos.

"There ain't nothing you can do! Stay out of it! We got the authorities coming!" one staff member is heard screaming during the call.

A sticking point in the report is the use of plastic handcuffs to control rowdy juveniles.

According to the report, DJJ policy allows staff to use the cuffs. But during interviews one of the administrators said they are trained not to use the cuffs and said there are no mechanical restraints on the entire compound.

The report lays out a clear disconnect about the proper way to handle a riot scenario.

Since the incident, DJJ added security cameras and downsized from a 144-person facility to 80.

Polk County Sheriff Grady Judd, who believes the situation could have been controlled if DJJ allowed staff to carry riot gear, said he's encouraged that the agency did a full review.

"I don't know if they're meaningful changes or if they're just rearranging the deck chairs on the Titanic," Judd said.

Judd also said DJJ still hasn't paid the $50,000 bill from the county.

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