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WPTV investigates claims by Riviera Beach Police Chief Clarence Williams

Posted at 11:49 PM, Nov 20, 2017
and last updated 2017-11-21 04:15:28-05

Riviera Beach Police Chief Clarence Williams accused his own officers of breaking the law during a news conference on October 10, but he never provided specifics. 

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The chief had put himself at the center of a WPTV investigation by lying about attending a secret meeting at Hurst Chapel on Sept. 28. 

Multiple sources confirm the people there talked about how to keep fired City Manager Jonathan Evans from getting his job back.

His own officers followed up by taking a vote of no confidence, which passed 67-3 against the chief. 

That's when Williams, surrounded by family and his lawyers, defended his brand. He said he doesn't "think much" about the vote of no confidence and followed it up by accusing his officers of several things. 

Claim 1: Officers tipped off drug dealers and hampered arrests 

Claim 2: Officers endangered the lives of babies by not responding timely

Claim 3: Officers abused sick time

Claim 4: Officers got arrested in neighboring jurisdictions 

Immediately following the news conference, we asked the chief and his legal team for details. Who are these officers? Are they still working with the Riviera Beach Police Department? 

But we didn't hear back, so we did our own digging. 

We found an FBI investigation in 2010 that centered on Officer Nathan Gordon. 

Records show federal agents believed Gordon warned suspected drug dealers of an upcoming FBI operation. 

During a recorded phone call, a suspected dealer asked Gordon if surveillance cameras were up and running at Worldwide Groceries. 

"They got everything over there," Gordon responded. 

The U.S. Attorney's Office and FDLE did not file charges but Riviera Beach Police fired him. But Gordon appealed and won his job back. In 2015, Chief Williams promoted him. 

Current Riviera Beach Police officers agreed to talk about the allegations if their identities could remain hidden. 

"If the chief is so concerned about allegations of tipping of drug dealers," one officer said. "Why then promote this officer to command staff and then have him in charge of investigating drug dealers? It makes absolutely no sense."

We did not find any other instances where officers were accused of warning suspects. 

What about officers not responding to calls in a timely manner? 

"Babies are dying? I mean, who says that?" One officer asked. "That's insanity! And if that is occurring and you're the chief of police, why haven't you done anything about it?"

Our investigation uncovered a case, involving the now promoted Sergeant Nathan Gordon. 

A couple called 911 after they claimed they were attacked while walking their 10-month-old near Northlake Boulevard and Congress Avenue. 

Gordon acknowledged the call, but did not send anyone to the scene. 

That couple called for help again, then left after waiting for 45 minutes. 

Gordon deemed the call "low priority in nature" as it "did not carry a direct threat to life or property".

He was not disciplined but counseled for holding calls and contacting citizens. 

WPTV also found a warning in the file of another one of Chief Williams' closest allies: Alex Freeman.

In 1998 he received a warning for dispatching an officer to a minor car accident, but delaying aid to a handicapped man who also needed assistance. 

We could find no other documentation of other incidents to support the chief's claim about responding to calls in a timely manner. 

"He deliberately destroyed and went after his own police officers," one officer said. "I think that's absolutely disgusting." 

When it comes to abusing sick time, WPTV's investigation found another of the chief's closest supporters implicated in that. 

Officer Cedrick Thomas served a three day suspension for abusing sick time in 2005 and 2006.
Eventually, he left the police department but he didn't leave the city. 

In 2007 he won a seat on the Riviera Beach City Council. In 2016,  he did not seek re-election after admitting to Sunshine Law violations. Chief Williams then hired him back as an officer. 

"How do you bring that person in as a police officer?" One officer asked. "I don't understand. I don't get it. It makes no sense."

"Nobody knows what he does," another officer said. "He doesn't respond to calls, he's not assigned to any shifts, none of the supervisors know who he actually reports to."

As for Riviera Beach officers getting arrested in neighboring jurisdictions, we found one case in our archives.
In 2013, an officer was arrested for slapping his girlfriend. Those charges were later dropped. 

WPTV did get a second hand response about the chief's claims. Mayor Thomas Masters said, during a meeting he had with Chief Williams, the chief claimed he was talking about five officers. Three of them were fired and two more who were suspended.

WPTV could not verify that information.