110 W. New York Ave.
DeLand, FL 32720
One officer drove 80 in a residential zone
posted Jan 30, 2014 - 9:44:24am
Two DeLand police officers have been suspended, and a police sergeant has been demoted, in connection with a pursuit and incidents of careless driving — including one case of two officers driving in excess of 90 mph in a 45-mph zone.
The disciplinary actions were reported by the DeLand Police Department Jan. 29, as the results of an internal investigation that began Dec. 6 were released.
The pursuit that was investigated occurred Nov. 28, despite additional training for DeLand officers last year about pursuits and their dangers, in the aftermath of the May 8 death of DeLand resident Marlon Brown.
Brown had been chased by two DeLand officers after he failed to stop for a minor traffic violation, and one of the officers ran over Brown, killing him.
In the Nov. 28 pursuit, Officer Rachel Riley, with the approval of her supervisor, Sgt. Grant Faustich, chased a driver who didn’t stop when Riley tried to pull a car over at the intersection of Voorhis Avenue and Woodland Boulevard because it had a hard-to-read license tag.
Riley pursued the vehicle over 3 miles and seven minutes, going as fast as 52 mph in a 30-mph zone. She was joined in the pursuit by Faustich. Also, two other officers, Officer Michael Paez and Officer Joey Mulero, raced to the scene.
The vehicle was eventually stopped in the 1500 block of South Boundary Avenue, and the driver was arrested.
The Police Department reported that Mulero drove as fast as 78 mph on Adelle Avenue during the incident, and traveled 70 mph in a 25-mph zone on High Street. According to the report, Paez drove 80 mph in a 25-mph residential zone and at 95 mph on State Road 15A as he rushed to the scene of the pursuit.
After the pursuit concluded, the report states, Paez raced to the RaceTrac gas station, driving as fast as 82 mph on South Woodland Boulevard. Paez told the investigating officer he might have been pursuing a vehicle, but he wasn’t sure.
“Although no crash occurred and no persons were injured during this incident, the potential danger to the public was real,” DeLand Police Chief Bill Ridgway wrote in a statement about the internal investigation and resulting disciplinary actions.
Paez and Mulero were both suspended for 40 hours without pay and lost the privilege of taking their police cars home for 30 days. Faustich was demoted from sergeant to police officer, had his pay reduced 5 percent, and was suspended for 84 hours without pay. Riley was given a written reprimand.
All four officers will receive remedial training on the DeLand Police Department’s pursuit policy and on vehicle operation. Rookies Paez and Mulero will also each have his probationary period extended by six months.
“[A] strong message needed to be reinforced to the department as a whole that these types of actions will not be tolerated,” Ridgway wrote.
The police chief said he will continue to support the legitimate need to pursue violent felony offenders, when the pursuits are performed in a responsible manner and within the department’s guidelines.
Faustich’s punishment was especially harsh in light of the fact that he did not order Riley to stop her pursuit, even though the driver she was chasing had not evidently committed a forcible felony.
Also, the sergeant had several performance-related issues documented in his personnel file, the police chief said, including failures to complete reports, and to include all of the necessary factual information in reports.
The internal-investigation report said Faustich’s performance history contained 13 entries of not completing assignments, not following orders or directions, or other incidents of negative performance between March 2012 to Dec. 2013.
Investigators also found Faustich approved an excessive amount of personal leave for staff members for New Year’s Eve, which is a time of high-call volume. Faustich himself was on administrative leave on New Year’s Eve and didn’t tell the lieutenant in charge about the staffing, the report states.
The internal investigation was requested by Lt. B. Morehouse, who wrote to his superiors to express concern about the Nov. 28 incident and about other incidents of excessive speed and possible policy violations by Mulero and Paez, including a Nov. 29 traffic stop conducted by the two officers.
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