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Melbourne PD Suspends Cop Twice This Year

May 23, 2002

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Melbourne PD Suspends Cop Twice This Year

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by J.D. Gallop, Florida Today

MELBOURNE, Fla. - A senior SWAT team member, given a medical clearance to return to the squad after threatening to kill himself and others in January, was suspended again, this time after two subordinates said he made inappropriate comments, officials said Tuesday.

The officer was placed on administrative leave with pay Thursday by Deputy Chief Wayne Torpy after two SWAT team members told superiors their allegations on May 13.

"He was suspended pending the outcome of an internal-affairs investigation for his demeanor and comments made to subordinates," said Torpy. "There is no belief by me that this situation involves any outward threat to anyone."

The allegations also follow concerns expressed by four other officers about the chief's decision to reinstate the officer after a Jan. 14 incident that led to mental observation under the Baker Act.

"They had questions about stability," said Jim Reynolds, a chief deputy who listened to those complaints about a month after the officer returned to duty. "I told them the chief's decision was to return him to duty based on a medical clearance."

Florida Today is withholding the name of the officer to protect his privacy. No charges have been filed.

Police reports show the senior SWAT team member in January made threats to hurt himself and others while talking to a fellow officer. The incident followed his breakup with a live-in girlfriend, whom he later married.

During the conversation, the officer, armed with a 9mm gun, said he "was not going anywhere" and that he would "waste the first (person) to come to the door," police reports show.

The officer's statements prompted Melbourne police to contact the Brevard County Sheriff's Office and to ask that their SWAT team be ready to respond.

Patrol officers also were stationed near his home and at the woman's workplace as a precaution, said Reynolds.

The department allowed the officer to stay home that night but was taken into custody under the Baker Act when he reported to the police station. His gun was taken and he was handcuffed.

The Baker Act allows for a 72-hour commitment of people thought to be a threat to themselves or others. Following that period, the officer was suspended and ordered to see a psychologist. The officer was then medically cleared to return to duty on the SWAT team.

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