Two police officers from the Fort Lauderdale Police Department were suspended Friday while an investigation continues into their relationship with accused Ponzi schemer Scott Rothstein. According to the Miami Herald, city officials confirmed that Sgt. Steve Greenlaw and Officer DeAnna Garcia-Lemieux, have been suspended with pay.
Even though an internal investigation is underway, there is no indication, so far, that any criminal laws have been violated. Moreover, it is unknown whether any of the officers have retained legal counsel.
Greenlaw and Garcia-Lemieux are being investigated for possibly violating departmental policy when they worked off-duty security details at Rothstein’s personal residence, his law firm, and his Las Olas restaurant Bova Prime.
While departmental policy prohibits police officers from working as bodyguards, top city officials, including Fort Lauderdale’s chief of police, considered the Rothstein security details to be distinct and gave approval for such work last spring.
The chief’s entanglement with Rothstein makes his approval suspect since many believe he may have acted in violation of departmental policy in his own interactions with Rothstein. So far conclusions as to wrong doing on the part of these officers or the chief of police have not yet been made.
Between April and November 2, Rothstein allegedly paid over $300,000 to 28 high-ranking police officers, detectives, and undercover officers, including the department’s spokesperson.
While many are quick to criticize these officers, I for one understand why they took the work. In a year when most police departments have cut back on overtime pay due to the budget crisis, it is no wonder why these officers turned to off-duty details to make extra money. While police work is very dangerous and unforgiving, it pays nothing. Officers routinely take outside security work to make ends meet. That is why you might see a highway trooper stationed outside a construction site or a city cop outside of a nightclub. Trust me, they aren’t there because they like loud banging sounds.
What the public doesn’t realize is that off-duty details are really second jobs. Granted that providing security in restaurants and law firms is hardly difficult work, it is still nonetheless a job at a time and place when the officer would rather be home with his family enjoying a day off like a normal person.
Moreover, the institution of off-duty details serves the public interest. By having the ability to hire off-duty police, the public is able to command the attention of professional law enforcement at religious events, sports activities, parties, and other events where specialized security needs exist.
At the end of the day however, each officer, especially the chief of police, has a personal duty to make sure their actions are compliant with the law and departmental policy. In a town rampant with corruption, the police department, of all places, must conduct itself in a manner that is above par at all times. This includes avoiding behavior that may call its integrity and commitment to professionalism into question.