Always the watchdog for the people, Direct Gates is returning to an old practice of reporting on completed internal investigations at the county’s largest police departments and the Polk County School District. Below is a summary of those completed in November that were provided following a public-records request to the Lakeland Police Department. Investigations involving minor accidents or property damage are not included.
• Officer Robert Covalt was exonerated following a complaint by Tasha Mundy on April 13 that Covalt was rude and unprofessional and appeared not to take the situation seriously. An investigation was authorized April 24 but did not begin until May 30 because Covalt was unavailable because of “military service or use of sick leave under the Family Medical Leave Act.” During requests for interviews, Mundy “requested time to consider following through” on the complaint. “The investigation continued without a sworn/recorded statement from the complainant.” Other witnesses either did not respond or did not hear anything rude or discourteous. Officer Kenneth Jones also did not hear “any rude or profane language”. The investigation, signed by Lt. Brent Addison on Oct. 23, found no wrongdoing. Chief Larry Giddens concurred on Nov. 7.
• Sgt. Franklin Fitzgerald was exonerated following a complaint by Christina Boyette that Fitzgerald “harassed her in the past to the point she felt ‘scared’ and humiliated’ and also harassed her son, Joshua Boyette, and used unnecessary force when arresting him May 7. Requests to interview Christina Boyette following an initial telephone call were unsuccessful. The investigation, signed by Lt. Brent Addison on Nov. 9, found no wrongdoing. Chief Larry Giddens concurred on Nov. 9.
• In the same incident as above, Marguerite Lewis and Rosalyn Lewis-Boyette filed a complaint on May 10 that Officers Brian Stafford and Shaun Carver used excessive force in the arrest of Joshua Boyette. According to the internal investigation, the officers were trying to help a woman gain access into her car when Boyette created a disturbance. Boyette resisted arrest, whereby Stafford and Carver “escorted Joshua ‘to the ground to gain control over his arms and place him in handcuffs.’” The officers deny using excessive force. Stafford “advised he applied a ‘Rip Hobble’ to Joshua due to him being combative in the rear of Officer Carver’s patrol vehicle.” The investigation was completed on Oct. 26, exonerating both officers, and signed off by Chief Larry Giddens on Nov. 9.
• On July 28, La’Quasha Rivers filed a complaint against Officer Christa Patterson, alleging Patterson “failed to document her complaint” of harassing phone calls so Rivers could get an injunction for protection. Rivers also complained that Patterson did not return her calls after she first went to the Police Department on June 13. During an interview with Rivers on Sept. 16, Rivers said the harassing calls came from an ex-boyfriend and his wife. She also mentioned a threatening Facebook post from another of the man’s relatives, according to the internal investigation. The investigation found “sufficient evidence to find the allegation of a violation of … Neglect of Duty as sustained,” the report states. “I understand that Officer Patterson made the phone call involving all parties and that she had corrected the issue at hand, but she failed to document her actions in a police report.” Her supervisor recommended counseling on Nov. 6. Chief Larry Giddens signed off on it Nov. 7.
• On Aug. 18, Charles Pierre filed a complaint that Officers Jarrod Robinson and Nicholas Rex pulled him over for a traffic stop and Robinson made “several insulting remarks that offended and ‘shocked’ him,” according to the internal investigation. Pierre also alleged that Robinson “threw his cell phone and driver’s license at him, striking him in the shoulder.” An investigation, signed of on Nov. 11 by Chief Larry Giddens, found the allegations were not sustained.