Released after her first appearance in court, Deputy Catherine Lara is the latest Palm Beach County Sheriff's Deputy to be locked up for allegedly breaking the law. She is accused of choking her girlfriend of two years during an argument.
We reached out to the Deputy's girlfriend, but she did not want to make any comments. Deputy Lara is on paid administrative leave and is also the 5th deputy to get in trouble with the law in the last month.
Jason Nebergall was arrested last month on charges he forced himself on a woman while on duty. Nebergall pled not guilty to sexual battery charges Wednesday.
Then there's Deputy Frantz Felisma, charged with using his police laptop to access the personal information of dozens of people and selling it. Investigators says his accomplice then opened fake credit card accounts and netted thousands of dollars. He's currently in jail.
Deputy Martin Casarez is on paid leave, accused of drinking at a local bar December 28, then crashing into a parked vehicle. A police report says Casarez's blood alcohol level was .205, nearly 3 times the legal limit.
And body cam video just released by Tampa police, allegedly shows police interaction with a Palm Beach County Sheriff's Lieutenant last month.
Tampa Police say they were called to a Marriott Hotel for a disturbance. When officers arrived, they confronted PBSO Lieutenant Chris Caris and his wife. Caris was not arrested, but remains on administrative leave from the Sheriff's Office.
"With this amount of deputies being in trouble, getting arrested, is it unusual? Sure, it’s unusual but remember Palm Beach County Sheriff’s Office is one of the largest sheriff’s office east of the Mississippi," said Retired Police Chief Andrew Scott.
Scott says the 5 incidents are disconcerting, but should not reflect negatively on the agency as a whole.
"Police officers are human, they do make mistakes and you’ve heard this before, the vast majority of law enforcement officers do their job, they do it very well, they are courageous," added Scott.
What these situations show, Scott says, is that PBSO Sheriff Ric Bradshaw is letting deputies know they are not above the law.
"It's showing to them, by the Sheriff and the staff that listen, you uphold the law, you have to be held to the law," he added.
PBSO released this statement in response to the Deputy Lara's arrest:
"The Palm Beach County Sheriff’s Office holds its employees to the highest standards and never forgets about its duty to preserve the public’s trust. Unfortunately sometimes an employee, in this case employees, makes a bad decision which leads to misconduct. This misconduct was reported, investigated and subsequently determined to be criminal in nature, resulting in the charges. The Sheriff’s Office will remain vigilant to insure that our efforts are professional and meet the high standards that the public has come to expect."
The Palm Beach County Sheriff's Office also says it has investigated 4 out of 5 of these incidents, all of which PBSO has been the arresting agency for the misconduct. All of the investigations are currently ongoing.