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Friday, May 27, 2016



On Thursday May 26, 2016, the Women for Responsible Legislation, a non-partisan conservative group, hosted the third Sheriff of Escambia County debate at Pensacola City Hall.  Participants included Ron McNesby, former Escambia County sheriff; John Johnson, retired DEA agent; Doug Baldwin, Sr., retired Pensacola Police Department lieutenant; David Morgan, incumbent Sheriff; and, Rex Blackburn, retired Escambia County deputy sheriff.  All except Blackburn are running as Republicans.

The following videos are published in the following order:  a welcome statement from Donna Clark for the WRL.  Opening and closing remarks for each of the candidates.  The Question & Answer session.  In the latter, all of the candidates answered the same question.  Each candidate was given two minutes for a response.  There is only one break in the Q&A session.  The moderator went to the next question before David Morgan answered.  These videos have not been edited.  Nor is there any editorial comment.

The actual order of the Opening statements was:  David Morgan, John Johnson, Doug Baldwin, Ron McNesby, and Rex Blackburn.

The actual order of the Closing statements was:  Ron McNesby, Doug Baldwin, John Johnson, David Morgan, and Rex Blackburn.

During the Q&A sessions, the moderator eventually went to a round-robin format where each panelist rotated into the opening slot.

Watch and listen to the videos and make your own mind up.


























Thursday, May 26, 2016



In the previous CJ's Street Report blogpost, Sheriff Morgan's retaliation against Deputy Ozell Powell was discussed.  The blogpost emphasized two key points.  One, after Deputy Powell filed an internal EEOC complaint against Sheriff Morgan, Sheriff Morgan personally ordered the initiation of an Internal Affairs investigation of Deputy Powell for stealing a $2.00 baseball card.  That IA investigation found that the accusation by Sheriff Morgan was "unsubstantiated."  And two, that such a retaliatory investigation was meant to punish Deputy Powell and intimidate other deputies.

But, this pattern of retaliation after filing a complaint of discrimination was not limited to Deputy Powell, an African American Army veteran with Multiple Sclerosis.  Beyanca Cannon, a corrections officer and Black woman, filed a complaint against a senior officer and suffered retaliatory punishment.  Rhonda Ray, a public information officer and white woman, filed a discrimination complaint and suffered from retaliatory actions.  Former Lieutenant Laura Montoya, Colonel of Investigations and a Hispanic (Latina) woman, complained of racial and gender harassment, and was put under investigation.  Mindy Pare, a white woman, was fired for missing one duty assignment and claimed that she received a more severe punishment than male deputies in the same situation.  Master Deputy Jacquelyn Gulley, a Black woman, filed a complaint (I have not read it) and was put under Internal Affairs investigation for "liking" Facebook posts that were critical of Sheriff Morgan. 

All five women, were outstanding law enforcement officers or correction officers.  They claimed they experienced gender and/or racial harassment.  They claimed they suffered mental duress and physical pain.  Their careers were either terminated or jeopardized.  And, after they filed a complaint, most of them were met with overt hostility from Sheriff Morgan by being placed under very stressful Internal Affairs investigations.  Whether the IA investigations found that the accusations were substantiated or not is irrelevant.  The IA investigations are seen as retaliatory and further evidence of racial and/or gender discrimination.    At least four cases are under court ordered mediation.  Only Deputy Gulley's complaint has not resulted in the filing of a state or federal lawsuit while it is under review inside the ECSO.

The evidence to be discussed below is drawn from court records and Internal Affairs investigation files.  Since all these court cases or complaints are active, I have not interviewed any of the plaintiffs or complainants, or sought their perspectives.  Any observations or conclusions drawn are my own.

That said, I think that when you find that five different women at five different times complaining of racial and/or gender discrimination and they are then subjected to retaliation via Internal Affairs investigation (or other investigation or near-immediate termination), then I believe you have the factual basis to conclude that there may be a pattern and practice of creating a hostile work environment for women of color (and women), a pattern and practice of racial and/or gender discrimination, and a pattern and practice of retaliation against those very same women.  None of this apparently makes into the box score when judging the merits and qualifications of Sheriff Morgan's candidacy for office.

Sheriff Morgan joked that once you become a Sheriff your new job title is "Defendant."  He laughed.  But it is not a joking matter.  These five women have suffered.  Deputy Powell suffered.  Undoubtedly, others have suffered in silence, too afraid to complain.  Once a woman files a complaint to protect their rights, dignity, and career, it appears that the full force of the office of the Sheriff is dedicated to beating these women down into submission.

And, you the county taxpayers should not be laughing.  At least four of these cases are under court-ordered mediation.  There is a possibility that the Sheriff's Office is going to have to pay for its laughing, cavalier attitude towards racial and/or gender discrimination and creating and maintaining a hostile work environment.


Beyanca Cannon filed her lawsuit against Sheriff David Morgan and the Escambia County Board of Commissioners on August 28, 2014.  Cannon, a Black woman who formerly worked as a corrections officer before being employed by the BOCC, is suing for at least $75,000 plus costs and interest.

She complained that since she was hired on February 14, 2011, she had been "mercilessly harassed and discriminated against by Lieutenant Reagan Phillips, who has since retired."  She asserted that Phillips applied different standards to her compared to "white employees," demeaned her, and created a "hostile work environment" by inflicting "taunts by Phillips on an almost daily basis."  As a result, she claimed she developed "Bruxism Clentching" which is the product of "severe stress" that causes migraine headaches which led to sleep deprivation.  Cannon was the "subject of vicious rumors that she was 'too friendly' with inmates.  These rumors, upon information and belief were created and spread by Phillips.  Anonymous false reports were filed against Plaintiff and her car was shot into and the windows were broken.  The false misconduct reports filed against Plaintiff were investigated and unsubstantiated."

In addition, "after filing several discrimination complaints against Phillips, Plaintiff began to receive unfair discipline on contrived allegations by the person she accused of racial harassment. On or around August 7, 2013, Plaintiff was retaliated against and suspended for 28 days without pay for a violation of a rule she did not commit. Plaintiff continues to work with for the Defendant Board and still deals with the residue of the treatment she was subjected to by Phillips."

Cannon's complaint further alleged Sheriff's Morgan own actions tolerating the racial harassment of her contributed to the racial harassment of Anita Hemphill.  Her complaint stated, "Furthermore, Defendant Sheriff knowingly condoned and ratified the differential treatment of Plaintiff as more fully set forth above because it allowed the differential treatment and participated in same not only of the Plaintiff but of at least on other employee of the Defendant, Anita Hemphill."  And, as we shall see below in the case of Laura Montoya, Montoya's involvement in the Hemphill case--under cover of protected speech--resulted in retaliatory disciplinary action against Montoya.

The federal court ordered mediation on November 29, 2014, for case 3:14cv439-MCR-CJK.


On July 2, 2015, Rhonda Ray, a white woman hired in 2001 as a public information officer, sued Sheriff Morgan for gender discrimination related to working in a "hostile work environment and retaliation for reporting the discriminatory acts."

Ray's complaint centers around the behaviors of David Craig, one of Sheriff Morgan's most trusted confidants who was hired in 2009 to work in the public information office, and Lt. Spears (a female) who was Ray's supervisor in the Community Relations Unit (CRU) and a later male supervisor.  Craig and Spears created a hostile work environment so severe that Ray transferred to the Crime Stoppers Division.  After Craig agreed not to harass Ray, Ray transferred back into the CRU in January 2011.

In February 2013, Ray transferred to the Public Information Office.  In August 2013, Sheriff Morgan "personally tasked Plaintiff [Ray] with a video production assignment."  Craig responded to this self-perceived slight  by "harassing, bullying, threating [sic] with career suicide and demeaning" Ray.  Ray reported this harassment directly to Sheriff Morgan and filed a complaint with the Human Resources Division.  After being told by an unspecified person to keep the complaint to herself, Ray "was informed that her services on the Wanted Fugitives T.V. show, which she had been a part of
since 2005, were no longer needed."

In January 2014, the ECSO created a "position description" for a "Community Relations Coordinator" (CRC).  According to the complaint, the position description matched the duties that Ray had fulfilled and "very few" if any of the tasks Craig had performed in the CRU.  Both Ray and Craig interviewed for the position.  Between January 2014 and March 2014, at least two people, including her then male supervisor and the personnel hiring committee, quizzed her on how she planned to balance her professional and personal lives.  In April 2014, the position was awarded to Craig.  And, despite having "essentially similar duties and responsibilities" Ray was paid less than a male Video Production Specialist.  After filing her EEOC complaint, Ray has been "continually harassed and subject to a hostile work environment including having her office location changed and relocated."  She was also punished with the lower amount of pay than her male colleague.

On May 23, 2016, the U.S. District Court had the case in mediation.


On March 3, 2016, Laura Montoya, a Hispanic, sued Sheriff David Morgan, Chief Deputy Eric Haines, Commander Ricky Shelby, and Captain Fred Alford for racial and gender discrimination, as well as illegal termination, and creating a hostile work environment.  She was reduced in rank from Colonel to Lieutenant in November 2014 and then terminated on August 14, 2015.  Up until the time she was terminated she was a "stellar employee" for more than 16 years.

She was promoted to Colonel on May 29, 2013, and served under Commander Shelby.  Shelby told her soon after her promotion that "he did not agree with her promotion to Colonel of Investigations and the most she should be was a First Lieutenant because she was a woman."  He then "routinely berated, cursed, yelled at and chastised" Montoya.  Shelby kept important information about the budget and narcotics unit from on the grounds that a woman did not need to know those details.  Shelby criticized her for talking "too much" in staff meetings and "not enough" in staff meetings.

Montoya took her concerns directly to Sheriff Morgan on a "number of occasions."  She also told Sheriff Morgan that Shelby had other harassment issues with other women.  Morgan, according to the complaint filed in U.S. District Court, advised her that he was "aware of the problems with Shelby because Colonel Hardy, a white male, had discussed similar problems he had with Shelby."  The solution in the case of Colonel Hardy was to transfer Hardy to the Administration Division.  Morgan advised Montoya to "'stay the course'" and that "he would 'deal with Commander Shelby.'" 

Instead of transferring out and keeping her rank, as Colonel Hardy had done, in April 2014 Senior Commander Shelby provided Montoya with a "Notice of Performance Deficiencies" and in November 2014 Sheriff Morgan gave her the option of "voluntary demotion" or an "involuntary demotion," as well a list of "performance deficiencies."

Now reduced to her permanent rank of Lieutenant, Montoya then had her authority undermined by a reporting Lieutenant who had refused a direct order to release a suicide note to the next of kin.  Chief Deputy Haines subsequently criticized Montoya's investigation of the insubordination incident and eventually the male Lieutenant was promoted to First Lieutenant.

Montoya, now voluntarily demoted to Lieutenant, transferred to Courthouse Security under Captain Fred Alford.  Alford, according to the complaint, "has been the subject of numerous internal complaints, yet has never been demoted from his Captain rank." 

On February 13, 2015, Montoya was subpoenaed to testify in a deposition in a lawsuit brought by Anita Hemphill against Sheriff Morgan as the sheriff regarding "racial and gender discrimination."

During the deposition lawyers for Hemphill asked for the documents Montoya had in a manila folder that she had intended to use to refresh her memory, if necessary.  The two ECSO lawyers representing the Sheriff approved the release of the documents in the folder.

One of the documents in the folder was a November 2013 email from Chief Deputy Haines (defendant in this case) to Montoya regarding the Hemphill case in which the Chief Deputy instructed Montoya to "'please delete this after you review it.'"

Two months later (April 2015), Montoya was advised she was the subject of an Internal Affairs investigation for keeping the email from the Chief Deputy and for releasing the documents to Hemphill's lawyers.  Also in April 2015, Montoya was advised that she was also under administrative investigation for "gender discrimination" against white male employees.  Captain Alford contended that Montoya was assigning more overtime hours to female employees than male employees.

The gender discrimination charge was not substantiated.  The "insubordination and improper dissemination of information were sustained."  Instead of Level 4 punishment as recommended by Commander Tharp, 20 hours of suspension according to the ECSO's Disciplinary Matrix, Montoya was given Level 8, termination by the Disciplinary Review Board that was approved by Morgan.

However, in her federal complaint, Montoya's lawyer contended that destruction of the email would have violated at least three ECSO policies, if not the Florida Sunshine law, and, that when she testified under subpoena that was "protected speech," and that her complaint of racial and gender discrimination was also "protected speech."

Her lawyer contended that the "ESCO has engaged in a pattern and practice of discrimination.  Other minority and female employees have been subjected to systemic discrimination within ESCO and have suffered adverse employment actions."

On May 16, 2016, a mere two months after filing her federal complaint, the U.S. District Court issued an order for mediation.  The original complaint asked for a "trial by jury."


On January 21, 2014, Mindy Pare filed a gender discrimination lawsuit in the First Circuit Court of Florida.  She alleged gender discrimination on the basis that she is "aware of other similarly situated male deputies that have missed their duty assignments and were not terminated" and that "Pare was disciplined more harshly than similarly situated male deputies."

Pare was hired as a deputy in January 2006 and in March 2011 she transferred from patrol to court security.  One of her duties was to stand watch at the Juvenile Justice Center two weekends every six months.  She missed the Sunday duty in June 2011 because she did not remember the assignment and had not been given the reminder email from her superior.  In September 2011 she was terminated.

On March 18, 2016, the First Circuit Court issued a "Notice of Mediation Conference."


Deputy Gulley's complaint of gender discrimination or harassment is with the ECSO and has not been released in response to a public records request.

It is understood that some time after filing her complaint, she was the target of an Internal Affairs investigation for "liking" several Facebook posts that had been posted by former Chief Deputy Bill Chavers.  The same "liking" of Chavers's posts was undertaken by then Deputy Donald 'Buddy' Nesmith Jr., now retired.  He, too, was the target of an Internal Affairs investigation.  In fact, both investigations were started on the same day and use identical language.  Chavers's comments were highly critical of Sheriff Morgan and challenged the Sheriff's qualifications as a candidate for Sheriff.

On February 8, 2016, Sheriff Morgan commenced Internal Affairs investigations against Nesmith and Gulley for violating "General Order 236 Personal Use of Social Media, 236.1 Precautions & Prohibitions (1), (2)."

General Order 236.1(1) apparently deals with "Sexual Harassment" and states that "Inappropriate postings that may include discriminatory remarks, harassment, and threats of violence or similar inappropriate or unlawful conduct will not be tolerated and may subject the member to disciplinary action up to and including termination" (page 4 pdf).

General Order 236.1(2) deals with a general prohibition:  "Members are free to express themselves as private citizens on social media sites to the degree that their speech does not impair working relationships of the ECSO for which loyalty and confidentiality are important, impede the performance of duties, impair discipline and harmony among coworkers, or negatively affect the public perception of the Escambia County Sheriff's Office."

This area of the law--the free speech rights of a public employee--is quite complicated and depends upon the interpretation of several U.S. Supreme Court decisions which lower courts do not always get right.  This is especially the situation when it involves sheriff deputies versus correctional deputies.  Here I must rely upon lawyers and court decisions to explicate the delicate balancing tests necessary to establish the boundaries of constitutionally protected speech.

We begin with the established fact in Florida that by law and statute that sheriff deputies are appointed and can be terminated by the sheriff "at will."  Though they are not public employees, it is arguable that they cannot be denied their constitutional rights of free speech on matters of "public concern."

In the Nesmith and Gulley Internal Affairs investigation, there is no doubt that Sheriff Morgan took umbrage at the comments of former Chief Deputy Bill Chavers.

The statement of "Findings," officially signed by First Lieutenant Carl Jones and Sergeant James Barnes, sounds like it was dictated by Sheriff Morgan.

The IA report summarized Chavers' comments and the reaction of Sheriff Morgan:  "These comments challenge Sheriff Morgan's integrity and character.  They state he is 'uncaring' and 'politically motivated.'  They describe his administration as 'terrible,' and call him the 'face of evil.'  They refer to him as 'King David,' and describe his term as Sheriff as a 'reign of terror.'  They state he has 'no true experience and is the least qualified person to ever hold the office of Sheriff.'  They state he is the 'worse [sic] person to ever hold the office of Sheriff' and 'possibly a bigger crook than his self claimed friend Sheriff Charlie Morris from Okaloosa County.'  These comments have not been supported by evidence.  They are egregiously disloyal, reckless, and maliciously untrue.  They bring discredit upon the Sheriff and negatively affect the public perception of the ECSO.  Gulley, a current member of the ECSO, clicked the 'Like' button on these public comments.  Although she did not intend to offend the Sheriff or the ECSO with her actions, she did.  If the Sheriff and other members of the ECSO found these actions offensive, it is not unreasonable to conclude that others did as well.  These actions do not reflect favorably upon the Sheriff or the ECSO" (page 5 pdf).

On page 10 of the Gulley pdf document, the IA report goes into some detail into the meaning of the "Like" button on Facebook.

According to the IA report:  "Clicking like is a form of speech because its use conveys a message.  Just as flipping the middle finger is a form of speech, so too is giving a thumbs-up, or like.  Facebook defines the like button as, 'a way to give positive feedback and connect with things you care about.'  Gulley explained her use of like had several different meanings, but she did not hit like to show support for anything negative or disparaging against the Sheriff or ECSO.  However, the Sheriff and other members of the ECSO, found her use of like offensive.  Use of the like button is subjective.  What one person might feel is an acceptable application of like, another person may not."

The case that is highly relevant here is Bland v. Roberts decided by the Fourth Circuit's Court of Appeals.

It is especially relevant because Facebook, Inc. filed an amicus curiae brief in favor of six plaintiffs who were fired after an election by the Sheriff of Hampton city in Virginia.

Facebook explained that it had a vital interest at stake in the case:  "Facebook, for itself and its Users, has a vital interest in ensuring that speech on Facebook and in other online communities is afforded
the same constitutional protection as speech in newspapers, on television, and in the town square" (page 7 pdf).  Thus, its intervention was a matter of serious financial and constitutional concern.

Facebook explained that a "like" was constitutionally protected speech.  According to Facebook's brief (page 8 pdf), "When a Facebook User Likes a Page on Facebook, she engages in speech protected by the First Amendment.... Liking a Facebook Page (or other website) is core speech: it is a statement that will be viewed by a small group of Facebook Friends or by a vast community of online users."

Facebook (page 15 pdf) also explained that the lower district court had erred in its decision on whether a "like" was speech:  "Contrary to the district court’s understanding, Liking a Facebook Page (or a non-Facebook website) is speech: it generates verbal statements and communicative imagery on the User’s Profile (or Timeline) Page – i.e., a statement that the User likes a particular Page, accompanied by the Page’s icon – as well as similar statements and imagery in the News Feeds of the User’s Friends."

Facebook (page 17 pdf) emphasized that the U.S. Supreme Court had stressed that speech during political campaigns was especially protected.  On page 18 Facebook noted that the "use of social networking and other online communities to rally support for political candidates and causes is a contemporary example of quintessential political speech."  Facebook pointed out that both the Republican National Committee and President Obama utilized Facebook to rally supporters.

Furthermore, Facebook noted that "Facebook thus provides a convenient and effective way for millions of voters to express support for the candidates of their choice and to become more personally involved in the political process as a result" (page 18 pdf).

Facebook argued that a simple "like" was protected speech and as such a basis for contesting an unlawful termination:  "Carter’s Liking of the Adams campaign’s Facebook Page – and the statements that appeared on Carter’s Profile, in the News Feeds of Carter’s Friends, and on the campaign’s Page – was no different from telling friends that he supported Adams, putting an Adams bumper sticker on his car, or planting an Adams campaign sign in his front yard. Carter’s Like on Facebook can form the predicate of his claim against Roberts for unlawful termination" (page 21 pdf).

Facebook also noted that in order for a public employee's speech to be protected "'need only be upon a matter of public concern'" (page 21 pdf).  Facebook (page 23 pdf) concluded its brief by noting that "The Supreme Court has held that the First Amendment protects the 'private expression of one’s views' from retaliatory employment action."

The American Civil Liberties Union also submitted an amicus curiae brief in support of the plaintiffs in Bland v. Roberts.

The ACLU wrote a vigorous defense of the plaintiffs and the use of a Facebook "Like" as an expression of substantive and symbolic speech that is constitutionally protected.  The ACLU noted (pages 11-12), "'Liking' something on Facebook expresses a clear message – one recognized by millions of Facebook users and non-Facebook users – and is both pure speech and symbolic expression that warrants constitutional protection.... In this way, an individual who uses the 'Like' button is making a substantive statement. That is especially the case when a user “Likes” a political candidate, as that is a clear sign of support for that candidate.... Or if a user 'Likes' another user’s comment or post, he or she is expressing approval of the information conveyed by that other user."

The ACLU further argued that the U.S. Supreme Court in Pickering v. Board of Education protected speech by public employees on matters of public concern (page 21 pdf):  "Public employees do not 'relinquish the First Amendment rights they would otherwise enjoy as citizens to comment on matters of public interest'...The First Amendment thus protects the speech of public employees when they speak on matters of public concern."

The ACLU also argued that speech related to the qualifications of a sheriff for office were a matter of public concern and thus protected speech:  "Indeed, this Court has repeatedly held that the subject matter of plaintiffs’ speech – the merits of a candidate for political office – is a matter of public concern....(speech regarding who was most qualified to be Sheriff is 'undoubtedly' protected). This case is no different. The campaign for the Sheriff’s office was the subject of a highly contentious and very public debate that dominated the community for a period of time" (page 24 pdf).

The ACLU pointed out that the Pickering balance test requires a Sheriff to provide evidence and substantiate that the operation of the Sheriff's Office was disrupted by the speech of his or her deputies:  "That is especially true here because there has been no legitimate claim that plaintiffs’ speech caused any disruption to the Sheriff’s office or its ability to operate efficiently...(an employer wishing to defend against allegations of impermissible retaliation must present evidence that the speech actually interfered with the functioning of his office, and may not merely assert 'speculative and unsubstantiated' charges of disruptions)" (page 28 pdf).

The Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals apparently was convinced by Facebook, Inc.'s and the ACLU's amicus curiae briefs and other U.S. Supreme Court decisions that a "Like" was constitutionally protected speech.  The Appeals Court reasoned (pages 41, 42, 44, 45):  "Once one understands the nature of what Carter did by liking the Campaign Page, it becomes apparent that his conduct qualifies as speech.... Aside from the fact that liking the Campaign Page constituted pure speech, it also was symbolic expression.... In this way, it is the Internet equivalent of displaying a political sign in one’s front yard, which the Supreme Court has held is substantive speech.... The Sheriff does not dispute that Carter’s speech, if it was speech, was made in his capacity as a private citizen.... And, it is well established that an employee can speak as a private citizen in his workplace, even if the content of the speech is 'related to the speaker’s job.'... Carter’s speech was political speech, which is entitled to the highest level of protection.... Indeed, the public’s interest in Carter’s opinions regarding the election may have had particular value to the public in light of his status as a Sheriff’s Office employee."

Examining another plaintiff who went on the opposing candidate's Facebook page and posted his own picture as a supporter was also constitutionally protected speech, according to the Court of Appeals.  The Court wrote (page 47 pdf), "Certainly a posting on a campaign’s Facebook Page indicating support for the candidate constitutes speech within the meaning of the First Amendment. For the same reasons as applied to Carter’s speech, McCoy’s speech was made in his capacity as a private citizen on a matter of public concern, namely, whether Adams should be elected Hampton Sheriff."

The Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals decision speaks to the situation Nesmith and Gulley found themselves vis-a-vis Sheriff Morgan (pages 45-6 pdf):  "In contrast, despite the Sheriff’s reference to the need for harmony and discipline in the Sheriff’s Office, nothing in the record in this case indicates that Carter’s Facebook support of Adams’s campaign did anything in particular to disrupt the office or would have made it more difficult for Carter, the Sheriff, or others to perform their work efficiently."

On page 8 (pdf) of the Internal Affairs report, the investigators noted that Gulley "normally accesses Facebook via Ipad at home."  Other than Sheriff Morgan and unnamed others, there is no evidence in the Internal Affairs that "liking" the comments former Chief Deputy Chavers posted on Facebook had caused any disruption to the ECSO's working environment or relations between deputies.  And, given the statements that Chavers made, it is difficult to fathom how they could be considered a form of "Sexual Harassment."  That Sheriff Morgan was miffed to the nth degree is undeniable.

Thus, Sheriff Morgan was absolutely correct that "Clicking like is a form of speech because its use conveys a message."  What the General Counsel of the Escambia County Sheriff's Office neglected to tell him was that it was constitutionally protected speech.

Tuesday, May 24, 2016


"I really don't see that he has any compassion for his deputies as people.  Nor their families.  He has no respect for his people."  Gabrielle Powell, divorced widow of Deputy Sheriff Ozell Powell, May 22, 2016.


It is rare for civilians to look inside the Escambia County Sheriff's Office and glimpse the internal culture of overt intimidation and the abrogation of constitutional rights of deputy sheriffs by Sheriff Morgan and Chief Deputy Haines, his chief enforcer.  In this blogpost and the next we will look at three Internal Affairs investigations of deputies Ozell Powell (deceased), Donald 'Buddy' Nesmith (retired), and Jacquelyn Gulley (serving).  This look inside the ECSO is aided by anonymous comments posted on the Law Enforcement Officer Affairs website, communications from confidential sources close to the ECSO, ECSO data released via public records request, and documents filed in the federal Eleventh Circuit District Court.

The legal employment situation of sheriff deputies in Florida is that they are at "at-will" appointees, not "at-will" employees; that is, as Florida is an "at-will" state for all employees, they serve at the whim and pleasure of Sheriff Morgan (and other elected sheriffs).  While the collective bargaining agreement between the ECSO and the Police Benevolent Association (PBA) may have some safeguards regarding procedures for termination, the PBA representatives, who are themselves deputy sheriffs, are subject to the same degree of intimidation and fear of being fired.

Under Florida statute and law, sheriff deputies serve at the pleasure and whim of the sheriff.  Florida State Statute 112.535 on Construction states, "The provisions of chapter 93-19, Laws of Florida, shall not be limit the right of the sheriff to appoint deputy sheriffs or to withdraw their appointment as provided in chapter 30" [emphasis added].

What this essentially produces appears to be a politicized workforce, a workforce that is risk-adverse, and a workforce that is not likely to counter existing policies with innovative policies.

For example, a thread in the LEO Affairs on "Employed or Appointed?" highlighted these problems.

One commenter noted, "The horror stories you hear are true."

A commenter named Bart casually wrote, "that crap happens every time a new sheriff comes to town. ive never been a fan of elected officials having anything to do with law enforcement. the ideal set up is like the one at miami dade PD. have a chief appointed and he stays there until he fuks up or quits. in addition, every officer from deputy chief all the way to officer is given civil service protection. the sheriff's offices down here need to get with the times.."

A commenter named HCSO511 casually concurred, stating "im with bart. that type of thing has been going on forever. if not dismissed or demoted because of the candidate you supported it can happen because someone getting payback for campaign support wants your job. and if they cant just boot you out of your position they can find a way with a little time and patience. everybody makes mistakes. and the first one a person makes that could be easily overlooked will be used to demote you or let you go."

Another commenter relayed his/her story of a young deputy telling the advice received from older deputies:  "All the old timers said that self-initiated activity only leads to trouble.... If deputies are appointed by an elected sheriff with no employment rights, then their lack of activity equals job security. I think I'm finally starting to get it. The one think I have NEVER done is laugh at old timers because they still have jobs after 20 or 25 years."

An "old timer" commented:  "Being overly proactive always generates complaints. Complaints will always lead to investigations and eventually lead to your pink slip. I've seen it over and over again.  Being overly proactive will put you in harms way more often."

So, we civilians need to understand that the sheriff position, an elected position, creates political dynamics inside a Sheriff's Office.  The sheriff uses his deputies to campaign for him.  They are his or her enforcers in the building.  Deputies who oppose the sheriff keep quiet.  Deputies who do not kow tow to the political line of the sheriff can be fired, and, a reason for firing can always be ginned up.  The schemers, manipulators, back-stabbers, and brown-nosers can gain promotion through accusations against fellow deputies.  Once an Internal Affairs investigation is launched, and it drags on interminably, the life of a deputy is living hell.  Chief deputies become masters at conniving to gain the top position and to destroy or sideline rivals.  A Chief Deputy can create factions, a sort of divide-and-rule strategy to keep hold of his position and to divide the collective bargaining effort.  Golden deputies can step out of line without losing their jobs, while reliable, straight-shooting deputies can be eliminated for one small mistake.  Innovation is not likely to come from deputies because innovation always entails a critique of the status quo--whatever bureaucratic momentum enjoying the favor of the sheriff--at the risk of one's career.  Better simply to survive than to propose an innovative policy or program.  Or, if not survive, leave for a better job.

In that bureaucratic culture fostered by a political sheriff and reinforced by a conniving, manipulative Chief Deputy, a bureaucratic reign of terror is not hard to institute and perpetuate.  You do not need to victimize everyone.  You only need to victimize a few to terrorize the many.

And thus we come to the truly sad and tragic story of Deputy Sheriff Ozell Powell, an Army veteran, a father, a husband, a sufferer of Multiple Sclerosis, and a victim of an unsubstantiated, vicious Internal Affairs investigation instigated by Commander Tharp and backed up by Sheriff Morgan over the non-stealing of a $2.00 baseball card.  Yes, that is not a typographical error.  This kinetic duo of the ECSO supported by the ECSO's General Counsel launched an Internal Affairs investigation over a two dollar baseball card that Deputy Powell had put in his pocket for safe keeping while waiting to give it to Sheriff Morgan.  Deputy Powell would have his heart broken, his stress levels rise, hardship for his wife and children as they would lose their medical insurance, and he would eventually die after resigning.  If you do not know, stress exacerbates and brings on episodes of MS.  Thus, launching a completely unnecessary Internal Affairs investigation of a deputy with MS over a non-crime could be considered a form of unusual punishment, if not torture.

This is a story that does not make the box score, but tells you everything you need to know about Sheriff Morgan's callousness, ruthlessness, and utter disregard for the health and welfare of his deputies.  It seriously calls into question his judgement as the chief law enforcement officer of the county.  If you want to invoke terror, make an example of a sacrificial victim.


The termination of Deputy Powell from the ECSO on May 16, 2013, was probably preventable had Deputy Powell and Sheriff Morgan interacted differently.  The sequence of events shows Deputy Powell filing an Equal Employment Opportunity Commission complaint in April 2013 against Sheriff Morgan; soon thereafter Sheriff Morgan launched an Internal Affairs investigation of Deputy Powell accusing him of stealing a $2.00 baseball card; in December 2013, Deputy Powell sued Sheriff Morgan in U.S. District Court in Pensacola alleging that Sheriff Morgan had discriminated against him on the basis of his MS illness.  Such harassment is illegal of a protected person under the Americans with Disability Act.

Deputy Powell's action were ill-advised for two reasons.

One, Sheriff Morgan soon after retaliated by personally directing the Internal Affairs office to launch an investigation of Deputy Powell for stealing a $2 baseball card.  And two, on September 30, 2015, the U.S. District Court in Pensacola determined that "There is no evidence in the record to support Powell’s claim of constructive discharge or any other adverse employment action."  In fact, the Court noted that up until Deputy Powell filed his EEOC complaint, Sheriff Morgan had accommodated all Deputy Powell's requests for leave and accepted all his certificates of fitness for duty.

Furthermore, the Court found that Sheriff Morgan's actions of placing a surveillance camera at the front desk, requiring Deputy Powell to submit two certificates of fitness for duty, and allowing him to work at the front desk in civilian clothes without a badge and weapon "is wholly insufficient to demonstrate an objectively hostile workplace.... Even accepting his statement that he was not allowed to work in uniform or was not given his firearm and commission card, these conditions do not come close to the type of conduct that has been found to create intolerable working conditions. Absent an adverse employment action, Powell cannot demonstrate a prima facie case of disability discrimination."

Regarding the Internal Affairs investigation, the Court found "There is nothing to show that it was based on anything other than as represented—an investigation into a suspected incident of theft. Powell was placed on paid leave during the investigation, and ultimately, the investigation exonerated him of any wrongdoing."

But, a close reading of the Internal Affairs investigation makes it clear that had anyone in a command position thought for one minute, there would have been no investigation.  The factual basis for believing that Deputy Powell had stolen a $2 baseball card is completely lacking.  The facts justifying the investigation are ludicrous.  Given the degree of ludicrousness, the Internal Affairs investigation appears to be clearly an act of revenge by Sheriff Morgan for Deputy Powell's filing of an EEOC complaint.


The essential facts are these: 1) On April 18, 2013, Bobby Marinin brought a baseball card inside a "grimy" envelope marked "from Bobby to Shuruff" to the administration lobby and gave it to Deputy Powell; 2) Deputy Powell put the baseball card in his pocket and the "grimy" envelope either on top of the trash can or in his desk drawer; 3) Bobby Marinin called the Sheriff's office a few times asking if the Sheriff had received the package; 4) Patricia Yvarra, an administrative assistant, finally received the call from Marinin and went to the lobby; 5) Yvarra asked Deputy Powell  for the package; 6) Deputy Powell took the baseball card out of his pocket and retrieved the envelope, put the card in the envelope, and gave both to Yvarra; 7) Yvarra then went upstairs with the card in the envelope and gave them to Anita Brooks-Ingram, Sheriff Morgan's administrative assistant; 8) Brooks-Ingram then went to Commander Tharp and Sheriff Morgan to relay a story of theft; 9) Sheriff Morgan directed Brooks-Ingram and possibly others to run the theft story past Legal; and, 10) Sheriff Morgan directly ordered an Internal Affairs investigation the next day.

The complainant was Sheriff Morgan.  Sheriff Morgan claimed he was the victim of a crime.

There are some other details that are contested, specifically what Deputy Powell intended to throw away and whether the "grimy" envelope was in the trash can or his desk drawer.  While those facts were never determined by the IA investigators, the evidence suggests that it was the "dirty and grimy" envelope that was going to be thrown away.  That quoted description comes from Bertha Lewis' interview with the IA investigators.  While the description came from Sgt. Pittman, Lewis twice agreed with that description and never contradicted it, having first described it herself as "grimy."  She was standing next to or near Deputy Powell when the envelope was delivered.  She told the investigators (pages 36-37 pdf) that Deputy Powell had told her he intended to call Sheriff Morgan's office to have them take possession of the baseball card and that for the two hours or so since the card had been delivered that Deputy Powell had been "quite busy."  In fact, Lewis' statement indicates that in the scheme of things that day, the delivery of the baseball was trivial.  She certainly did not take special note of it.

In other words, amongst all the duties and tasks Deputy Powell was responsible for, processing reports and other tasks, during a time period when he was "quite busy," he had simply forgotten or been distracted enough not to call upstairs to the Sheriff's office.  When asked by Yvarra to give her the package he readily gave it her without a second thought.  The IA investigators noted that the surveillance camera footage showed that Deputy Powell had never left his duty station and appeared to be busy.  He had certainly not made any furtive movements towards the baseball card.

The following quote is from the original statement of Patricia Yvarra and apparently formed the basis of the IA investigation (page 52 pdf):

"On April 18, 2013 at or around 14:15 hours, I went to the Sheriff's office Administration lobby to pick up a package that was left for the Sheriff from 'Bobby.'  When I got there Officer Ozell Powell Jr. was working so I asked him if there was a package left there for the Sheriff from 'Bobby' he [sic] pulled a baseball card out of his shirt pocket and an envelope out of the trash can or his desk drawer and he said 'I was just getting ready to throw it away.'"

Do you see probable cause that a "petit theft" had been committed?  Who stole the baseball card?  Nobody.  Let's launch an Internal Affairs investigation to confirm that nobody stole the baseball card.

Can you imagine if someone in Escambia County had called the Sheriff's Office and stated exactly what Yvarra stated?  Do you think the Sheriff's Office would have dispatched a deputy to investigate the "theft" of a $2.00 baseball card?  You can almost hear the dispatcher rolling on the floor howling in laughter.

However, on April 19, 2013, Sheriff Morgan directly ordered that an Internal Affairs investigation commence against Deputy Powell.  Sheriff Morgan loves to claim that he has three decades of law enforcement experience.  Yes, it shows.

Sgt. Barnes's Internal Affairs investigation determined that the accusation of "petit theft" was "unsubstantiated." 

But wait, it gets worse.

We do not know what Brooks-Ingram precisely told Commander Tharp and Sheriff Morgan.  We only know what she under oath told Sgt. Scott Allday with Sgt. Wayne Pittman attending.  And the story she told, sworn to be true, is so stupid that only someone intent on using any pretext for revenge would have acted on it.

Brooks-Ingram told the investigators that she first told Commander Tharp what had happened, that is, her hearsay story of what transpired in the lobby.  Then she told Sheriff Morgan the same hearsay story.  Sheriff Morgan then directed "us," presumably her, Yvarra, and Commander Tharp to go to Legal (see page 21 pdf).

Now, hearsay may not be exactly correct.  Brooks-Ingram did not witness anything in the lobby.  The only thing Brooks-Ingram witnessed was afterward Yvarra being "upset" about Yvarra's interpretation of Yvarra's observation of Yvarra's interaction with Deputy Powell.

The investigators asked Brooks-Ingram how Yvarra had reacted to what had transpired in the Administration lobby.

Here is the exact statement Brooks-Ingram stated under oath that she presumably told Commander Tharp and Sheriff Morgan of Yvarra's reaction (page 21 pdf):

"Yes she said she was pretty upset and she said uh, I can see, nobody puts trash in their pocket.  Uhm if he had just reached into the trash can and pulled out the envelope with the card in it, she would have thought nothing of it.  But the fact that he reached over to get the envelope out of the trash and then pulled it out of his pocket, the card, she said again that you know people don't just throw trash in your pocket to throw away later."

In closing the interview, Sgt Allday asked Brooks-Ingram if there was anything she wanted to say that he had not thought of asking her (see page 23 pdf).  She told Sgt. Allday that she and Yvarra began speculating about "why would he just put that in his pocket and our first thoughts, both of us, were well I wonder if the card is worth any money."  Apparently, Yvarra and Brooks-Ingram went down to Legal where they spoke with a woman named Carrisa.  Having convinced themselves that Deputy Powell intended to steal the card because it was worth money, Brooks-Ingram told the investigators that "Carissa tried to look it up online and uh saw, uh couldn't, you have to become a member and all like that, uhm, what they did, what she did is pick up the phone and call a card dealer place and uhm they said it [sic] worth about ten or twenty dollars."  Note, on page 17 (pdf) the card is worth $2.00, not $20 or $10 and there is no evidence provided that anyone quoted those higher figures.

And, what did Yvarra tell the investigators under oath?  She was interviewed 14 minutes after the interview with Brooks-Ingram had commenced.  She stated a number of things (see page 29 pdf) of relevance.  She thought it "odd" that the envelope and the baseball card had been separated.  She did not ask Deputy Powell why he had the card in his pocket and she did not ask what he was going to throw away.  So, however "odd" she believed Deputy Powell's behavior at that moment, she had no desire to resolve the question in her mind about the "oddness."  She told Brooks-Ingram "it just seemed odd to me that he pulled the card out of his pocket and the envelope from somewhere else."  She continued (page 30 pdf), "I didn't think anything of it, until he pulled the envelope out of the, from somewhere else.  I didn't understand why the card and the envelope weren't still together."

Sgt. Allday immediately asked Yvarra, "Did you think he was trying to steal it or..." and Yvarra interjected, "No.  That thought never crossed my mind.  It was just odd that it was."

So, the only witness to the "crime" of "theft," Patricia Yvarra, did not think that Deputy Powell was trying to steal the card or had stolen the baseball card.  Her only reaction or interpretation of the event was that it was "odd."

Looking at the bureaucratic culture of the ECSO, what would deputies conclude?  All you have to do is have a secretary believe your behavior is "odd," even if it was not; if you are already a target of the Sheriff's wrath--whether you know it or not--and the "oddness" of your behavior can be twisted and misconstrued into a criminal act, then you will be subjected to an Internal Affairs investigation.  Memo to deputies: do not act odd.

Interestingly, Sgt. Allday then ended the interview with Yvarra and asked no follow-up questions about what Brooks-Ingram had said to Commander Tharp and Sheriff Morgan, or, what Brooks-Ingram had said to Carissa in Legal, or what Carissa in Legal had done with that information.  Surely, here was an opportunity to possibly impeach Brooks-Ingram's credibility, but the investigators did not take it.  Why?  I can only speculate, but it would take investigators with stones the size of Everest to impeach the Sheriff's own administrative assistant.

In fact, it is not clear that Yvarra witnessed any subsequent conversations that Brooks-Ingram had.  It would appear that she may not have been a witness to what transpired after she told Brooks-Ingram that she had observed something "odd."  After all, if Yvarra did not think that Deputy Powell had intended to steal or had stolen the baseball card, would she not have told her superiors before Sheriff Morgan told Brooks-Ingram to go down to Legal?  In other words, there is no corroborating statement that anyone had tried to determine the value of the card or what had actually transpired in the lobby.  It certainly appears that neither Sheriff Morgan nor Commander Tharp ever asked Yvarra if she thought that Deputy Powell had tried to steal or had stolen the baseball card.

It also appears that the impetus to launch the IA investigation came not from Yvarra, who was a witness, but from Brooks-Ingram who had no first-hand knowledge of the event in question.  Yet, the IA record does not contain the initial statements that Brooks-Ingram told Commander Tharp and Sheriff Morgan.  Sheriff Morgan apparently used hearsay evidence of dubious value to launch an Internal Affairs investigation against a Deputy who had recently filed an EEOC complaint against the Sheriff.

What is clear is that at no time did Sheriff Morgan and Commander Tharp reason that the most probable explanation for the separation of the "grimy" envelope and the possibly pristine or cleaner baseball card is that Deputy Powell, a squared-away troop, did not want to dirty his uniform or clothes.  For all Sheriff Morgan's experience in the U.S. Air Force and whatever experience Commander Tharp has in law enforcement, that simple idea--keeping one's uniform or clothes clean and saving yourself some money at the cleaners--never entered their mind.  These two brilliant law enforcement officials could not fathom Deputy Powell's reason for putting the "grimy" envelope in his trash can or desk drawer and the cleaner baseball card in his pocket.

That Brooks-Ingram's statement is ludicrous is not at issue.  Sheriff Morgan using that ludicrous statement to launch a vindictive attack on Deputy Powell via an Internal Affairs investigation is the issue.


Deputy Ozell Powell believed, wrongly it turned out, that he was being discriminated against on the basis of his disabled condition and filed an EEOC complaint against Sheriff Morgan.  Very soon thereafter, Sheriff Morgan used a ludicrous hearsay statement from his administrative assistant who did not witness the event--an alleged theft of a $2.00 baseball card by Deputy Powell--to launch an Internal Affairs investigation of Deputy Powell.  The other administrative assistant who interacted with Deputy Powell in taking possession of the baseball card and giving it to Sheriff Morgan's administrative assistant never thought that Deputy Powell had stolen or had intended to steal the baseball card.  On the basis of groundless speculation--it is odd to put a "grimy" envelope in a trash can or your desk drawer and keep the cleaner baseball card in his shirt pocket--Sheriff Morgan launched an Internal Affairs investigation of Deputy Powell for theft.  Any rational person would conclude that Sheriff Morgan's action did not reveal sound legal judgement, an efficient use of Sheriff Office resources, and was, in fact, a cowardly act of revenge on Deputy Powell for having filed an EEOC complaint.  Sheriff Morgan may have rightly felt miffed that Deputy Powell had filed an EEOC complaint after Sheriff Morgan had treated Deputy Powell fairly for a couple of years or so.  But, from the point of view of the Sheriff, using Deputy Powell as an example of how easy it is to launch an Internal Affairs investigation, Sheriff Morgan could intimidate his subordinates and instill fear.  He could make them fear that the slightest, most innocuous behavior deemed "odd" by an administrative assistant could be met with an Internal Affairs investigation.  The other message was that if you file an EEOC complaint, it is almost guaranteed that I will make your life a living hell by finding grounds to launch an Internal Affairs investigation.  And, the message it gives to favored officers and deputies, if you harass someone in a protected status and that person is a real or imagined opponent of the Sheriff, I have your back.  Even if the factual basis is ludicrous beyond belief, no deputy could feel safe.  If that is not bureaucratic terrorism, then what is it?

Wednesday, May 18, 2016

Sheriff Morgan Uses Taxpayer Money for Campaign Billboards?


UPDATE (May 18, 2016, 1049H): The intention of the original article was to focus on car thefts and car burglaries.  However, due to length, I limited the discussion to car thefts.  However, in at least three places I used the word "burglary" which confused readers.  "Motor Vehicle Theft" is a separate category in the Uniform Crime Reporting program.  As I was collecting the ECSO data on dispatches, I differentiated between car burglary and car theft.  There were 159 dispatches for car burglary during the time period of mid-April to mid-May.  That would yield an annual number of 1,908 car burglaries.  However, the FDLE does not maintain a database of car burglaries.  The FDLE database has an umbrella category for "burglary" which makes trend data for car burglaries impossible to calculate.  However, the logic for car burglaries and car thefts is the same:  If there is no alarming spike in car burglaries, then why spend $130,080?  If there is an alarming spike in car burglaries, then why implement the least effective anti-theft police publicity campaign?  In either case we are left questioning the competence of the ECSO leadership and the ulterior motives of Sheriff Morgan.  END.

On April 22, 2016, Jay Camac, a retired Deputy (1994-2012) began a comment thread on the Law Enforcement Officer (LEO) Affairs website regarding the "Cost of Lock Your Doors Billboards."  Earlier, Camac had submitted a public records request (April 8, 2016) and subsequently posted the Escambia County Sheriff's Office documentation within the LEO thread.

The documentation revealed that the Sheriff's Office had contracted with the Lamar Companies to spend a total of $130,080, of which $122,400 was for rental space for the signs which have a picture of Sheriff Morgan next to the caption "Lock your doors and keep it yours."  There are three rental periods: March 7, 2016 to May 1, 2016 at 38 locations; May 2, 2016 to June 26, 2016 at 38 locations; and, June 27, 2016 to August 21, 2016 at an undetermined number of locations.  During each rental period, the Sheriff's Office is spending $40,800.

As Jay Camac observed in his original comment, "I'm sure it is only a coincidence that this publicity campaign runs from March 7, 2016 until August 21, 2016. I'm sure it is a only another coincidence that Morgan is featured prominently on these billboards."  An anonymous commenter also suggested that "those billboards...are nothing more than Morgan campaign signs disguised as public service announcements."  Possibly a second anonymous commenter noted, "Simply put he can't raise enough money to run his campaign fund so he goes and does the unthinkable with taxpayers money! Time will tell!"

Thus, we are led to believe that the Sheriff's Office will be successful in reducing car burglaries theft between March and August via these billboards.  We are also led to believe that the expenditure of $130,080 has nothing to do with Sheriff Morgan's re-election campaign.

The purpose of this CJ's Street Report article is to show that while the ostensible purpose of the billboard campaign is to reduce the number of car burglaries, the real purpose is to promote Sheriff Morgan's candidacy.  This argument is based upon empirical research indicating that Sheriff Morgan chose the worst possible type of anti-theft publicity campaign to reduce car burglaries.  That is, the billboard campaign that Sheriff Morgan chose to reduce car burglaries is indicative of his incompetence as sheriff.  While it is certainly plausible that while he may have chosen this type of billboard campaign because he truly is incompetent, it is equally plausible that he chose this billboard campaign as a cover for its real purpose--to promote his inept political campaign.

After all, what kind of sheriff states on the one hand that he has reduced crime, and thus he needs to "keep the momentum" going, and, on the other hand, tells the voting the public that his office is a failure at combating car burglary theft?  And, to add insult to injury, since the target audience is owners of cars, what kind of sheriff essentially tells his potential voters that they are the cause of his failure, and not his lack of leadership and experience?  Well, only an incompetent sheriff does that.


The first question to ask is whether or not there is a significant surge or spike in "motor vehicle theft" that would warrant a $130,000 expenditure of taxpayer funds.

The problem with law enforcement data is that it lags behind current events.  From the FDLE, we have data for Escambia County from 2006 through June 2015.  In the chart below, the data for 2015 is a doubling of the reported data for the period of January to June 2015 of 234 thefts.  Judging from the available data, the number of "motor vehicle thefts" is significantly down from 2013.  A public records request has been submitted for data since June 2015.

The data show that in Sheriff Morgan's first year, 2009, there were 753 "motor vehicle thefts," according to FDLE data.  The number declined to 609 in 2010, rose to 726 in 2011, fell to 680 in 2012, rose to 768 in 2013, and fell to 660 in 2014.  The first six months of 2015 had 234 "motor vehicle thefts," which is shown on the line graph as 468--an assumed and arbitrary doubling.  That number would have to increase three times, to 702 to show a significant increase over 2014.  In fact, the 234 figure would have to increase nearly four-and-a-half times to reach the 2006 level of 1,039 "motor vehicle thefts."

In none of these years (2009-2015) did Sheriff Morgan believe that the data warranted the expenditure of $130,000 for billboards to advise car owners to lock their cars.  Again, CJ's Street Report has requested through a public records request the "motor vehicle theft" data since June 2015.

There is some preliminary data suggesting a very steep rise in "motor vehicle thefts."  I did a search of the ECSO's dispatch calls from April 17 to 15 May, 2016.  The ECSO database only allows a search of the last 30 days.

In that time period, there were 118 dispatches for a "vehicle-stolen."  Assuming that each dispatch for a stolen vehicle represents an actual stolen vehicle, that would produce a twelve-month total of 1,416 stolen vehicles--377 vehicles more than the 1,039 stolen vehicles reported in 2006.  In fact, 2006 was the highest year of the data set spanning from 1995 to 2014.

Thus, if 2016 is on a pace to be the year for the highest number of stolen vehicles since 1995--in fact, the all-time worst year on record--then the issue is whether a billboard campaign is the appropriate response by Sheriff Morgan and his faithful sidekick Chief Deputy Eric Haines.  Was a billboard the best solution that the ECSO brain trust could come up with?

One of the anonymous commenters on the LEO Affairs website asked, "Why not put a Burglary task task force together?  Everybody knows the real reasons why this wasn't done. 1) it makes logical sense 2) Morgan knows nothing about Policing 3) Morgan doesnt [sic] get the Political exposure through real tried and true Policing practices!"  Why not, indeed?

Fortunately, there are some pretty bright people in the field of criminal justice who examine the effectiveness of various types of police responses to crime.  Those studies suggest that a billboard campaign is the weakest response, and, in order for a billboard campaign to be successful, it must be accompanied by intensive planning and operations.


Emmanuel Barthe (PhD) literally wrote the book on police responses to car thefts.  He published a short article, "Crime Prevention Publicity Campaigns" (2006) for the Center for Problem-Oriented Policing at the State University of New York, Albany.  His much larger study (pdf), "Crime Prevention Publicity Campaigns" was supported by the U.S. Department of Justice's Office of Community Oriented Policing Services.

It is important to note that Barthe's study, as part of the "Response Guide Series" is based on "research findings and police practices in the United States, the United Kingdom, Canada, Australia, New Zealand, the Netherlands, and Scandinavia" and that each "guide is informed by a thorough review of the research literature and reported police practice and is anonymously peer-reviewed by line police officers, police executives and researchers prior to publication."

Thus, Barthe's observations and conclusions regarding best practices for a police publicity campaign need to be considered carefully.  Barthe's study is referenced in numerous other police works as essentially the definitive study of best practices.

Barthe's first specific caution is that a police publicity campaign to be effective must be part of a planned operational strategy:  "Police agencies should not blindly resort to publicity campaigns or rely on them to replace proper police interventions. While it may be tempting to adopt publicity campaigns to support police efforts, such attempts should incorporate proper planning and adequate implementation."  Prior to starting the publicity campaign law enforcement needs to "carefully analyze the crime problem" in order to determine whether the target audience is potential victims, offenders, or a combination of both.  Thus, "Agencies should therefore undertake a publicity campaign only in the context of a broader response to a problem."

More to the point, Barthe suggested that simple, stand-alone police publicity campaigns aimed at reducing car thefts were very unlikely to be successful:  "Randomly posting signs advising residents to lock their cars is unlikely to reduce a city’s car theft problem.... General publicity campaigns aimed at victims have had limited effectiveness.  A four-month national press and poster campaign tried to educate people about the importance of locking their parked cars, but it failed to change people’s behavior.  Another campaign used posters and television spots to remind people to lock their car doors, but it also proved ineffective.  These studies demonstrate that people often pay little attention to crime prevention messages.... Even with extensive campaign coverage, general publicity attempts show meager results.... General victim campaigns are rarely successful in changing prevention behaviors."

Similar observations were reported by Mike Langenbacher and John Klofas in their 2012 review of the literature (pdf), "Media Campaigns and Crime Prevention" for the Rochester Institute of Technology's Center for Public Safety Initiatives.  They noted that a 2004 study found that "Often times they are the brainchildren of politicians, who often seek to use such programs to show that they are tough on crime or that they have been effective in reducing crime...Perhaps as a result, Atkin and Decker point out that there exists only a limited understanding of the effects of prevention publicity, despite their now widespread use."

Their 2012 literature review also included Poyner's 1989 analysis of the effectiveness of various measures.  Although there was no discussion of Poyner's analysis--suggesting that the study is well known and understood--there was a relevant table regarding "campaigns and publicity."  A tactic could have an effectiveness score between +2, +1, 0, and -1.  Police talks in schools had an effectiveness measure of 1.  The highest, at 1.78, was "doorstep campaigns by the police."  The least effective method of stopping crime was "advertising/publicity to encourage the use of security devices."  That method was even less effective than a police talk at school with a rating of 0.71.

It is impossible to know whether or not Sheriff Morgan has directed an intensive data analysis of the stolen vehicle data to determine the geography of the crimes, the time of day, the vehicles stolen, the methodology of the crimes, and whether there is a pattern to the crimes.  Nor is it known if the Sheriff's Office has formed a Car Theft task force to do intensive hot-spot policing which is more effective than standard policing, according to a 2004 study.

The best practices literature suggests that the approach taken by Sheriff Morgan and his trusty sidekick Deputy Chief Haines is not likely to reduce vehicle thefts.  Stand-alone police publicity campaigns without intensive data analysis, operational planning, and focused patrolling is known not to be effective.

However, there appears to be an effective police publicity campaign that originated in Dallas, Texas, called the "Hide Lock Take" program.  According to program's website, the "Hide Lock Take program throughout the United States and Canada has reduced auto theft and vehicle break-ins by 85%.... We have helped through community awareness signs to reduce 3 out of 4 auto theft and vehicle break-ins throughout Texas including Dallas."  The company noted that the Hide Lock Take program is "most effective" when combined with the formation of "Auto Theft Task Forces."

Essentially, the Hide Lock Take program posts signs in areas advising motorists what to do to prevent their car from being stolen.  The company also sells rearview-mirror hangers and fliers.  Each sign costs $17.50 and there is a minimum order of 50 signs.  An order of 1,000 signs would have cost the ECSO $17,500.

The sign used by the Dallas Police Department looks like this:

The Hide Lock Take program also has a poster for police that explains the system:

And, there is a poster explaining the program for neighborhoods:


The available data suggests that Escambia County may be experiencing an unprecedented number of stolen vehicles.  If the data for 17 April to 15 May, 2016, is an accurate reflection of the overall trend data, then 1,416 vehicles will be stolen in 2016.  The police publicity best practices literature indicates that stand-alone police publicity campaigns--apparently like the one initiated by Sheriff Morgan for more than $130,080--is bound to fail.  There is no data to indicate that such a stand-alone publicity campaign will be successful.  Thus, Sheriff Morgan is apparently wasting $130,080 dollars of taxpayer money on a proven ineffective anti-theft publicity campaign.  The Hide Lock Take program appears to be not only cheaper, but also more effective when combined with an anti-vehicle theft task force.  Thus, we are left to conclude that given the almost certain failure of Sheriff Morgan's publicity campaign to stop vehicle thefts, the most plausible reason for the $130,080 worth of advertising from March 7th to August 21st featuring Sheriff Morgan is to promote his political campaign for re-election.  I'm sure his faithful sidekick Deputy Chief Haines will be barking that the expenditures are legal and they will be successful and yada yada yada.  Sure, anything you say.  But, retired deputies and anonymous deputies inside the department who know how to fight crime simply do not believe you.  And neither should the taxpayers who are being ripped off for $130,080 to support Sheriff Morgan's political campaign for an unprecedented third term while the county experiences, perhaps, the highest number of vehicle thefts in its history.