Is Sheriff Demings Cooking the Books?
John Tegg, candidate in the race for Orange County Sheriff said, crime is being under-reported by the Orange County Sheriff’s Office and he is requesting a full investigation by the Florida Department of Law Enforcement.
Tegg, holding up a sheaf of records which he said supports the claim that burglary crimes are being under-reported in Orange County, made this observation at a press conference on Wednesday, outside the 33rd Street Sheriff’s Office. At a news conference later on Wednesday, Orange County Sheriff Jerry Demings total rejected Tegg’s claim calling it “the big lie.”
“I have here the results of a lawsuit and it took the threat of a lawsuit and an impending court date to get the Sheriff to release these records I am holding,” Tegg said. A lawsuit filed earlier to obtain the public records was dropped as OCSO provided the pertinent documents, he said.
Tegg noted that, he had made a public records request in June for documents, after receiving complaints from deputies that the crime of burglary was not been classified appropriately. Memoranda, e-mails and other evidence corroborate the mis-classification, he said.
“It’s now abundantly clear that Sheriff Demings is deliberately underreporting crime stats in order to create a politically preferable illusion of a lower crime rate in Orange County,” he said.
Tegg added not only did he review the documentation, but he had asked other law enforcement professionals, including former two-term Brevard County Sheriff and Assistant State Attorney Phil Williams to offer an “independent assessment” of the classification of the crimes.
“… From the cases classified as ‘theft,’ the crime of ‘burglary’ was readily apparent,” Williams said. “To call them mere thefts is to understate the crime statistics.” He added that it seemed as if deputies were requiring “forced entry” to classify something as a burglary, which is incorrect.
Two retired deputies, who also addressed the press conference said, they had been pressured by supervisors to change burglaries to lesser crimes.
Asked how widespread the apparent mis-classification of burglary crimes might be, Tegg said he couldn’t say. He pointed out though, the 84 documents that he had in hand, were based on reviewing one statute in one district, over a six-month period.
Although FDLE has indicated that the correct procedure was being followed by OCSO in the reporting of burglary crimes, Tegg said, that had been the conclusion of a FDLE analyst and not a legal opinion.
Asked whether convening a press conference two weeks before he will face incumbent Orange County Sheriff Jerry Demings in the November election wasn’t a political stunt, Tegg said the timing had everything to do with “OCSO not making available the records in a timely manner.”
“This practice (underreporting of crimes) must be stopped,” he said. “… It’s the citizens who are paying the price with a false sense of security. That’s why I am joining the complaint that is already on file calling on the Governor to ask for a formal investigation by the FDLE into the Orange County Sheriff’s Office.”