FORT LAUDERDALE (CBS4) – The big, king cab pick-up truck with Broward Sheriff’s Office logos and blue emergency lights on top backed into the neighborhood garbage dump and a man began to unload household junk.
The driver of the BSO police unit was a sheriff’s deputy far from work. The dump is in South Miami-Dade County, 42 miles from the deputy’s job in Broward.
A CBS4 News viewer, curious and concerned, got out his cell phone and started taking photos of the lawman – who was wearing shorts and a short sleeved shirt – emptying refuse from the bed of the pick-up.
The deputy’s use of the take home truck to make a personal run to the dump was a clear violation of department policy.
“It’s something that can’t be tolerated,” said Jim Leljedal, a spokesperson for BSO.
The department’s policy says officers who take their vehicles home out of county may drive them only “to and from work and for official business.”
Something seemed quite unofficial about the old, beat up, barbecue grill being discarded from the rear of the BSO vehicle. And now the deputy faces a grilling.
Within minutes of receiving the photos from CBS4 News, BSO investigators had matched the deputy to his distinctive truck.
“We have launched an internal investigation. We’ve determined that we believe who the deputy is and when the investigation is concluded, we will be taking disciplinary action,” Leljedal said.
Leljedal said the deputy lives in the neighborhood near the Dade dump and works out of the main BSO office on Broward Boulevard in Fort Lauderdale.
BSO has not released the name of the deputy because he has not yet been formally notified of the investigation.
Taxpayer James Williams, leaving the Sheriff’s Office after picking up a report, was livid to see photos of a gas guzzling truck going to an out of county dump at taxpayer’s expense.
“It’s deplorable,” Williams said. “I wish I had a free card to buy gas for my own vehicle, but I don’t.”
When the practice of letting cops take their cars home evolved in the 1960’s, the thinking was it would boost police presence in neighborhoods and reduce wear and tear on the cars – they would be running one shift a day instead of three.
But the take home car practice might be headed for the curb in these tough economic times.
Broward now charges deputies a modest fee if they take their car out of the county after work, based on how far they travel. Miami-Dade is looking to require all its officers to pay a fee – $50 per payday – for the use of their take home cars. Miami is considering drastically reducing the number of cars allowed to be taken home, if not eliminating them altogether.
The stink over the cop and his truck at the dump could accelerate the call to trash the take home car.
Broward County’s Vice Mayor John Rodstrom shook his head as he looked at the photos provided by CBS4.
“We hate to see things like this,” Rodstrom said.
Rodstrom told CBS4’s Gary Nelson he’s having second thoughts about whether deputies who live out of the county should be allowed to take vehicles home.
“I think that’s going to have to be closely looked at, because of gas being what it is and the expense involved,” Rodstrom said.
The BSO’s Leljedal said the case of the police vehicle at the dump should serve as a reminder to all officers that if they do something inappropriate they are probably going to get caught.
“Everyone has a camera in their pocket these days,” he said.