Outside group has started its investigation of PBSO

The Washington-based think tank hired by the Palm Beach County Sheriff’s Office started its investigation into the department late last month.

Sheriff Ric Bradshaw is spending $100,000 for the Police Executive Research Forum to examine his department’s internal affairs unit and the unit’s investigations after The Palm Beach Post and WPTV NewsChannel 5 found the unit cleared all but one fatal shooting by a deputy in 16 years.

The team from PERF started July 28, and their six-member team could spend up to four months interviewing PBSO staff, comparing the department’s policies with “best practices” and hosting six focus groups to get public input. Their findings will be released in a public report.

Their first visit lasted four days. The dates for the focus groups have not been announced.

Police internal affairs units are tasked with investigating whether officers violate department policy, and their findings can lead to officers being disciplined or fired. They do not handle criminal investigations.

The Post-WPTV investigation found that some of the unit’s investigators would skew or ignore evidence that would appear unfavorable to deputies who shoot.

After deputy Jason Franqui shot 16-year-old Jeremy Hutton, who suffers from Down syndrome, in 2010, for example, investigators said video confirmed Franqui’s statement that he shot as Hutton was driving toward him in a minivan.

But the video actually shows the opposite: Franqui fired all six rounds while Hutton was driving away from him.

The investigators’ reports also often left out critical information. In Hutton’s case, the report didn’t mention that Franqui’s rounds went into the back of the minivan, or that two of the rounds went into a passing motorist’s vehicle.

Although PBSO has a strict policy against shooting into moving vehicles, investigators found nothing to fault in the shooting.

Bradshaw agreed that some of the unit’s reports were inadequate, and he said future reports into shootings will be more thorough.

But he said better reports wouldn’t have changed the outcome of the investigations.

Since 2000, the department has cleared all but 12 shootings, a 90 percent clearance rate, The Post found. Since 2010, the rate is 100 percent.

Outside police group to spend more than 4 months reviewing PBSO

The Palm Beach County Sheriff’s Office will pay $100,000 for a police think tank to review its internal affairs department and its investigations into shootings.

As part of the deal, six experts with the Police Executive Research Forum will spend months interviewing PBSO staff, comparing the department’s policies to “best practices” and hosting six focus groups to get the public’s input.

At the end of their study, estimated to take about 4 1/2 months, the group will release its findings and recommendations for improvement, according to the contract, signed in May. The PERF team is expected to start late this month, according to a PBSO spokeswoman.

Sheriff Ric Bradshaw asked PERF for help after a joint investigation by The Palm Beach Post and WPTV NewsChannel 5 revealed in April that the agency’s investigations into shootings were often inadequate.

The investigation found that PBSO’s internal investigators skew or ignore evidence that could be critical of the shooting deputy and often don’t question a deputy’s statement, even when facts show the deputy didn’t tell the truth. Their reports were also found to leave out basic information, such as how many shots the deputy fired and whether the suspect lived.

Over the agency’s 123 shootings by deputies since 2000, it found only 12 went against department policy.

Bradshaw didn’t dispute the investigation’s findings but said that even if internal investigators’ reports were more thorough, the shootings still would have been found justified.

PERF is a respected think-tank in the world of policing, and the U.S. Department of Justice often contracts with them to help reform police departments.

The group will be looking into many aspects of the county’s largest police department, according to the contract, including:

  • How the agency handles complaints by civilians.
  • How it reviews uses of force by deputies.
  • The department’s policies.
  • How its internal investigators are trained.

PERF will hold six community focus groups “to determine community expectations about PBSO internal administrative investigations,” the contract states.

The dates for those groups have not been announced. The Post will publish them as soon as they’re released.



PBSO deputy who shot, paralyzed unarmed bicyclist Dontrell Stephens given promotion

Adams Lin, the Palm Beach County Sheriff’s deputy who was captured on video shooting an unarmed bicyclist in 2013, was recently promoted to sergeant.

He also has a new assignment: field training, where he works with new recruits.

The promotion comes two years after he shot and paralyzed 20-year-old Dontrell Stephens, four seconds after stopping the bicyclist and getting out of his patrol car.

Lin said Stephens didn’t comply with orders to raise his hands and reached into his back waistband, prompting him to shoot. Stephens had a cell phone in his hands. He was paralyzed from the waist down.

Most of the incident was captured on video. When The Palm Beach Post and WPTV NewsChannel 5 aired it in May, it quickly went viral, getting the attention of national media.

PBSO cleared Lin of any wrongdoing in the incident.

Before being promoted, Lin was assigned to community policing. He was the department’s 2010-11 Community Policing Deputy of the Year.

Stephens has sued Lin and PBSO in federal court.

Video: PBSO deputy describes shooting that left Dontrell Stephens paralyzed

A video of a PBSO deputy shooting an unarmed man within four seconds of stopping him in 2013 captured national attention last week.

Now a newly obtained video shows Palm Beach County Sheriff’s Office deputy Adams Lin describing what caused him to shoot.

In the video, Lin says that Dontrell Stephens turned his body and reached toward his waistband as if he was going for a gun.

He didn’t have a gun; it was a cell phone that was in his right hand during the four-second encounter.

The video also shows how Lin, who was assigned to a community-oriented policing job, was dressed. Attorney Jack Scarola, who is representing Stephens in a federal lawsuit against PBSO, said Lin was “dressed for war,” carrying 76 rounds of ammunition.

He was dressed differently from most uniformed PBSO deputies, with a tactical vest carrying his ammunition and Taser. Those items are often carried on a belt.

Scarola released the video to the media on Friday.

Video of Stephens’ shooting came to light last week, when The Palm Beach Post and WPTV NewsChannel 5 published online the results of a yearlong investigation into police shootings. The reporting revealed that one in every four people shot at by deputies were unarmed, and one in every three people are black. Stephens is black. Lin is Asian.

In the wake of the investigation, Palm Beach County commissioner Priscilla Taylor called for independent investigations and a community symposium.

POST INVESTIGATION: Nearly one in three people shot at by Palm Beach County deputies are black

A yearlong investigation into police shootings by The Palm Beach Post and WPTV Channel 5 reveals some startling statistics: One in four people shot at by the Palm Beach County Sheriff’s Office are unarmed, and nearly one in three are black.

But while the shootings have been highly controversial, PBSO almost never finds anything to fault.

Our investigation reveals PBSO’s internal investigators often rely solely on the deputy’s version of events, ignoring or downplaying conflicting evidence such as videos to justify deadly force, even when it seems apparent that the deputy violated agency protocol.

We’ve created a database of 256 shootings by 32 local agencies in Palm Beach County and the Treasure Coast dating to 2000. It’s never been done before here – not even by police themselves.

We’ve also uncovered never-before-seen videos the shootings that dispute police version of events, including the shooting of a 17-year-old boy with Down syndrome and the shooting of an unarmed 20-year-old four seconds after the deputy stopped him.

To read our series, click here.

Lawsuit: Palm Beach County deputy who shot Dontrell Stephens in 2013 had record of complaints

Even Jack Scarola, the lawyer representing Dontrell Stephens in a suit against the Palm Beach County Sheriff’s Office, doesn’t thinks Deputy Adams Lin intended to leave Stephens paralyzed.

In 2013, Lin shot Stephens four times after stopping him for riding his bicycle the wrong way across Haverhill Road. Captured on video, it’s one of more than 250 shootings detailed in a year-long investigative report by the Post’s Lawrence Mower and NewsChannel 5’s Katie LaGrone.

Lin thought Stephens was reaching for a gun. There was no weapon though. PBSO and the State Attorney’s office concluded Lin acted appropriately.

And he’s been cleared of other complaints as well, writes Scarola in the Stephens suit. But Scarola believes that’s a large part of the problem: that PBSO has been reluctant to mete out serious discipline.

Scarola is holding a press conference Friday at 4 p.m. to talk about the Stephens case and his views on PBSO, which he believes is becoming increasingly militaristic in its approach to policing.

Sheriff Ric Bradshaw can’t comment on the specifics of the suit, but in court filings, PBSO lawyers have emphatically defended his actions in the Stephens shooting.

From the Stephens lawsuit:

“Among the incidents described in LIN’s file are (i) an allegation that he conducted an illegal “stop and frisk” on a woman walking along the sidewalk by claiming that she was obstructing traffic, (ii) an allegation that he used excessive force, and used the N-word, while effecting the arrest of an African-American man, and (iii) an incident in which LIN fired his Taser at a man because of a perceived threat, LIN created a written report stating that he gave the man multiple commands to drop a rock in his right hand before deploying the Taser, the Taser-mounted video showed that LIN said “drop the rock” just one time, less than one second before firing the Taser, and LIN admitted to the discrepancies between his written report and the video but claimed that he was still justified in deploying the Taser.

“On those occasions, as on all occasions when LIN’s interaction with the public has been evaluated by a PBSO supervisor, LIN’s conduct was determined to be reasonable, justified, and/or consistent with PBSO policy.”

Further, wrote Scarola,

“On six separate occasions since May 2011, the PBSO Early Intervention System flagged LIN for having five or more use of force incidents in the preceding twelve months. On two occasions since March 2013, the Early Intervention System flagged LIN for having five or more incident reviews in the preceding twenty-four months.

“None of the Early Intervention System alerts, however, led to any additional training for LIN or any other disciplinary action. To the contrary, on the two occasions when PBSO supervisors wrote formal memoranda about LIN’s use of force alerts, they reiterated that LIN’s use of force was and justified “and onforms to existing General Orders.”