A chief who promised to clean up a department once described as "troubled organization...beset with strife", believes four and a half years later, he did exactly that.
“We have developed a career path program. We have instituted an officer wellness program. We developed a mentoring program, an idea incubator so that all personnel in the department who wanted to make the department better had a form to bring their idea forward," said Katz.
During a one-on-one interview a few weeks before his departure, Contact 5 asked Katz whether or not he set the Boynton Beach Police Department on a new trajectory, away from the scandals that have plagued the department in the past. “I believe so,” Katz said.
However, two simple crime statistics show the city may be in worse shape. Contact 5 looked at universal crime reports provided by Florida Department of Law Enforcement, and analyzed data in Boynton Beach under Katz’s tenure.
Contact 5 found under Katz, crime in Boynton Beach jumped 24.9 percent from 2014 to 2016. During that same time frame, the percentage of crimes solved fell by more than a 27 percent.
For the first half of 2017, four out of five crimes in Boynton Beach went unsolved.
(Scroll down to see these statistics broken down.)
Since we discovered those statistics after our sit down interview with Katz, we reached out for a follow up interview to discuss the numbers. Instead, Katz offered a statement. He did not address the increase in crime, but offered this about clearance rates:
“I’ve identified the need to increase our clearance rate which is specifically we I hired Capt. Steve Burdelski, who in a previous career, ran the Tampa Field Office of the FBI. My initial focus as Chief has been on improving the quality of our selection, hiring, and training. This is core to any organization’s success. We are making strides in this area and I anticipate this rate to increase in coming years. I believe Capt. Burdelski can share more with respect to what challenges he’s identified and the steps we are taking to increase the efficacy of our investigative function.”
According to a police spokesperson, Burdelski has been on the job only a little more than six months.
Under Katz’s leadership, the city had to pay over $1 million to settle complaints made by people who said they were mistreated by Boynton officers.
To his credit, this year, Katz helped get his department body cameras. “We just did a review of our body worn camera program, and in the 90 days before and the 90 days following, we have seen a 60 percent reduction in complaints of our personnel,” Katz told WPTV’s Michael Williams during a recent interview on To The Point.
Additionally, under Katz, two officers filed separate whistleblower lawsuits accusing Katz and the city of unfair treatment. Both lawsuits are still being worked out in court.
“Every time I sit down with the media, this is what we talk about,” Katz told Contact 5 Investigator Merris Badcock during the recent sit down interview. “We talk about things from years ago, and the department still suffers from a bad representation as a result of that.”
Yet under Katz’s watch, problems with Boynton officers continued.
Shortly after Katz started as chief, a Boynton officer was accused of sexually assaulting a woman while he was on duty. The officer, Stephen Maiorino was criminally charged and fired, but later found not guilty.
Recently, an officer was caught drinking and driving his Boynton police vehicle, after verbally assaulting a bartender.
Perhaps the incident under Katz’s tenure which garnered the most notoriety was the release of helicopter video of a high speed chase that lead to a federal investigation into members of the police department. Two officers were found guilty of federal crimes during the investigation. However, according to Katz, the FBI is still investigating the incident.
At noon on Wednesday, Katz ended his tenure with Boynton Beach police, and tweeted a photo as he left for a department in Chesterfield County, Va. where Katz will become chief of another department four times the size of Boynton’s.
In the meantime, Assistant Chief Kelly Harris will run the department on an interim basis and the city plans to search the nation for a permanent replacement.