In October, a Zephyrhills Police Department sergeant was fired for failing to supervise an officer during an arrest. The officer went to a suspect’s residence to talk to him about a misdemeanor retail theft. After speaking to the suspect through a hanging screen at front door, the officer ordered the suspect out of his home. The man declined and stood passively inside the doorway with his hands raised.
Following several warnings, the officer deployed his TASER at the suspect, then entered the residence to effect a physical arrest for the petit theft. A charge of RAWOV was also filed. The incident was captured on the officer’s TASER CAM. The sergeant was present and assisted in the arrest.
I think you will agree that this was a problem from the moment the officer unlawfully ordered the suspect to exit his home. No charges were filed against the perp by the State Attorney’s Office. ZPD fired the officer and the sergeant, each of whom are appealing the decision.
Supervisors are responsible for service delivery. That means ensuring that all the actions of subordinates comply with state law and department policies. When things start to go south, it is a sergeant’s responsibility to intercede and fix the problem. If we are complicit in unwarranted actions, we will share the consequences.
The same can be said for officers on calls. If your partner breaks the rules and you stand idly by, you will go from witness to accused in Internal Affairs. Some officers erroneously believe they are not accountable for what other officers do around them on the street. That excuse won’t fly in an IA interview. Ask a union rep.
In the ZPD incident, the sergeant should have deescalated the situation and controlled the actions of the officer to protect him from making the illegal entry and arrest. My opinion is based upon the circumstances as described by ZPD and my viewing of the TASER video.
I have stepped in on a number of occasions to calm a heated situation between officer and citizen or, conversely, to escalate our response to have proper force applied sooner to bring an incident to a quick and safe conclusion. Most of the time, a supervisor can observe, evaluate, and let the officers do their jobs unfettered, but knowing when to intervene and when not to is the mark of a responsible sergeant.