Review of PBSO internal affairs behind schedule

Posted at 7:00 PM, Dec 03, 2015
and last updated 2015-12-03 19:00:26-05

The 2013 patrol car dash camera video of then 20-year-old Dontrell Stephens getting shot by a Palm Beach County Sheriff’s Office deputy went viral minutes after the Contact 5 Investigators first made it public in April.

Stephens had just gotten off his bike when, four seconds later, he was shot four times by then-Deputy Adams Lin.

At the time of the shooting, Stephens was unarmed, holding nothing more than a cell phone.

The Stephens’ shooting and dozens of others analyzed by the Contact 5 Investigators in a joint investigation with The Palm Beach Post earlier this year, inspired Sheriff Ric Bradshaw to hire a Washington D.C.-based police research firm to analyze PBSO’s Internal Affairs department.  The department is tasked with investigating any complaints lodged against deputies and reviews deputy-involved shootings to determine if deputies violated any internal policies.

As part of our joint investigation, Line of Fire, we found since 2000 that PBSO’s internal affairs department has cleared nearly every deputy involved in a shooting even when investigations were incomplete and evidence was ignored or skewed in favor of the deputy. 

Days after our investigation went public, Sheriff Bradshaw said he wanted the Police Executive Research Forum (PERF) to conduct a full-fledged review of policies and practices within the agency’s internal affairs department.  While the sheriff stands by his department’s investigations into deputy-involved shootings, he acknowledged final reports could be laid out more clearly.

"That’s why we are hiring PERF. We want to make sure how we structure these reports, that the information that's contained in them is more logically laid out,” he told the Contact 5 Investigators in May.

But nearly two months after this review was supposed to be complete, it's not.


"That is a question for PERF, " PBSO spokesperson Teri Barbera wrote in an email to the Contact 5 Investigators earlier this week.

According to a spokesman from the Police Executive Research Forum, "this work is a little behind schedule because of scheduling issues with our people meeting the sheriff's officials," said Craig Fischer.

The $100,000 taxpayer-funded review was supposed to begin in June, but got off to a late start.  It's expected to reveal the successes and failures of current policies and practices within the department.  The firm will also offer any recommendations for improvements.

Over the past four months, PERF researchers have interviewed members of PBSO and its internal affairs department.  Researchers were also supposed to hold focus groups as part of its review.

According to an email from Fischer this week, “we have finished all our site work and our people are drafting the report now, but it still will have to go through internal review here before we send it to Palm Beach. Rough guess for ETA on that – still a few weeks.”