COCONUT CREEK (CBSMiami) — Nearly a week after a man died in police custody, the Coconut Creek Police Department still refuses to provide any information, declaring his death “confidential.”
Calvon Reid, 39, died in police custody after apparently being Tasered by several Coconut Creek Police Officers. Police Chief Michael Mann refused to even acknowledge or confirm the name of the person who died, citing the federal healthcare privacy law known as HIPPA.
“The information sought is confidential and exempt, therefore, as an agency, we have no comment at this time,” Mann wrote in a statement.
However, Barbara Peteresen, president of the Florida First Amendment Foundation, said the city of Coconut Creek was wrong in their interpretation of state and federal law.
“They are misinterpreting and misapplying an exemption for complaints of misconduct to cover up what led to the Tasering and ultimate death of a human being,” she told CBS4’s Jim DeFede.
Even more disturbing, she said, is the city attempting to use HIPPA to try and hide the fact Reid died.
“HIPPA does not apply to the Coconut Creek Police Department. It applies to healthcare providers. It does not exempt the name of a man who died in police custody.”
Mann refused to meet with reporters who showed up at the police station Monday.
Sgt. Henry Cabrera, the department’s public information officer, also refused to answer any questions: “I’m not going to answer any of your questions. No comment.”
City leaders in Coconut Creek are supporting the police chief and his refusal to release public records.
“You’ve already been given a statement,” said Mayor Becky Tooley, referring to the chief’s statement declaring the death confidential. “I’m not going to answer any more questions from you sir.”
Commissioners Sandra Welch, Mikkie Belvedere, and Lou Sarbone also refused to make any comment or criticize the police department for withholding public information.
And unfortunately we still don’t have some very basic information: What day did this occur? What time did it occur? What was the initial call that brought officers into contact with Reid? How many officers responded? What happened once they got there? Are the officers still working or have they been relieved of duty pending the results of the investigation?
Reid’s father told the Sun Sentinel the police claimed his son had was Tasered after his son became belligerent with paramedics who had been called to treat him after he was found beaten inside the gated retirement community of Wynmoor Village.
The Coconut Creek Police Department will investigate itself in connection with Reid’s death. The findings of that investigation will be forwarded for review to the Broward State Attorney’s Office.