West Palm Beach commissioner suggests 'culture change' regarding police department behaviors

Critical comments surface at commission meeting

WEST PALM BEACH, Fla. -- - The West Palm Beach police chief is firing back after a city commissioner hints there needs to be a culture change in his department.

The critical comments about the police department surfaced at a special city commission meeting on Monday.

Minutes into the meeting, two different commissioners expressed concerned with the transparency of three recent excessive force lawsuits.

"I would like to hear, and I think in a public forum, the efforts that are being made to change the culture over there. This is like three lawsuits that we've had to settle because of some issues," said commission president Keith James at the Monday commission meeting.

Commissioner James was questioning the culture of the police department while commissioners discussed a pending $140,000 excessive force lawsuit settlement.
"I understand they have a role and I have a role. If they bring me up and give me an opportunity to talk, I'm more than happy to do so. And if they want to talk around things, that's their privilege. They're in charge," said Chief Vince Demasi of the West Palm Beach police department.

Chief Demasi said he does not take the comments personally. He feels there is a lack of understanding about the legal constraints his department faces when they are sued.

"I would love to be more transparent with some of these issues. But I'm not allowed," said Chief Demasi. "I guess that's some of the frustration I feel when people make these kinds of statements, that there's a culture of corruption."

When reached for comment about his recent statement, Commissioner James felt his words were not understood.

"Oh no. That certainly was not my intention to suggest that at all," said Commissioner James.

He said he can see how someone could interpret his comments about the police department that way. Commissioner James insisted his intention was to open the forum up to allow the chief to explain what he has done to improve the department in light of the recent lawsuits.

"I just want to see a department that is ran without getting sued," said James.


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