UPDATE: The Fort Pierce Police Department is assuring the public the city is in good hands while Police Chief Diane Hobley-Burney is on administrative leave.
In a statement released Wednesday, a spokesman for the police department noted that several senior members of the force are working as a team to provide good leadership during Hobley-Burney's investigation. Chief Deputy Kenny Norris is acting as interim Chief.
The police department also clarified in its statement that the investigation into Hobley-Burney has nothing to do with the investigation into the officer-involved shooting of Demarcus Semer in April.
Fort Pierce Police Chief Diane Hobley-Burney has been placed on paid-administrative leave, following allegations that she misused her power, failed to investigate police violations and kept officers in the field while under investigation.
Chief Deputy Kenny Norris has been named interim chief.
Wednesday morning Norris met with senior staff members. In a release Norris reassured the public nothing would change during Hobley-Burney's absence.
City Manager Nick Mimms would not confirm specific details about the investigation into the chief, but a city spokeswoman said a letter to the city from former special investigator with the department is part of the investigation.
Investigator, Borthland Murray, said in a letter, “During the past year I have observed the systematic deterioration of the officer’s morale, disturbing trend of the misuse of power by the Chief of Police, the failure to investigate police violations and negligent retention.”
Murray resigned before sending the letter to commissioners, his last day at work was June 30th.
The letter include allegations of Hobley-Burney ignoring false workman’s compensation claims, allowing officers under investigation to remain in the field, threatening citizens and putting the department at risk for losing its accreditation.
Murray also claims in the letter that Hobley-Burney directed him to seek criminal charges for a citizen and Commissioner Reggie Sessions after expressing dissatisfaction following the Fort Pierce Police Department’s officer involved shooting.
Rick Reed claims he was a citizen intimidated by Hobley-Burney. “I think it’s appropriate that she be investigated criminally for what she did,” Reed said.
Reed said Hobley-Burney tried to intimidate him after he spoke at a commission meeting supporting an officer that the chief was trying to fire for her relationship with felons.
City Manager Nick Mimms also gave Hobley-Burney a written reprimand for questioning his decision not to fire the officer after Hobley-Burney called for her termination.
Mimms would not comment about that reprimand, but did express his concerns over the allegations.
“I’m very concerned because the police department is very important to the health, welfare and safety of the community. It is a building block of every community,” Mimms said.
Murray’s letter also describes concerns that the chief put the department at risk for losing its accreditation by failing to review and certify the department’s policies.
Murray also expressed concerns about the chief’s decision to dismantle the SWAT team during a time of increasing terrorist incidents.
Hobley-Burney could not be reached for comment Tuesday night.
Hobley-Burney was hired as the city’s first black female police chief 13 months ago. She has been praised by many community organizations for her work trying to rebuild the relationship between officers and the community.
Read Murray's letter to the Fort Pierce City Commission below:
— Meghan McRoberts (@MeghanWPTV) July 5, 2016