PD In Florida Investigated Whistleblower Cops Instead Of Corruption
Ocoee, FL – The Ocoee Police Department (OPD) is accused of retaliating against officers who accused a lieutenant of having drug and gang ties.
OPD investigated three Ocoee police officers after they reported an Ocoee police lieutenant for allegedly having ties to a gang and drugs, but the department didn’t actually investigate the police official who was accused. At least, not until after he’d retired.
This was despite the fact the Ocoee police chief was aware of the allegations against the official.
Each of the officers who were brave enough to report the alleged misconduct have lost their careers with OPD. One later faced criminal charges related to his job with zero support from his police department.
But the lieutenant who allegedly had ties to gang members was able to retire with 25 years on the job, and walk away with no repercussions. In fact, he got a job working for the company that holds the contract for the red light cameras in Ocoee, WFTV reported.
WFTV investigated what, if any, investigation was conducted into accusations against Ocoee Police Lieutenant Brad Dreasher, but reported that “the stack of records doesn't explain what was or wasn’t done to the former Ocoee officer accused of having ties to the West Orange Gang.”
Critics have said OPD failed to conduct their investigation properly.
“I mean we didn't, we didn't investigate. We didn’t really do a whole lot with it,” Ocoee Officer Gregory Hegyes told Orange County Sheriff’s Office (OCSO) investigators who followed up, according to WFTV.
The sheriff’s office looked into it and verified that the Ocoee police had never conducted an investigation into Lt. Dreasher, WFTV reported.
Ocoee Police Chief Charles Brown denied charges he’d ignored allegations about the lieutenant, and told Blue Lives Matter that there was an investigation.
However, Chief Brown said he had “no idea” whether the internal affairs investigation into Lt. Dreasher was launched before he retired, or in the aftermath of the bad publicity that followed.
Ocoee Sergeant James Berish told Blue Lives Matter that the investigation into Lt. Dreasher for alleged drug and gang ties was not launched until 2016, the year after the lieutenant retired.
Blue Lives Matter has obtained a copy of the “chief’s notes” from Chief Brown’s meeting with the Orange County sheriff’s investigators in the spring of 2014, which clearly indicated that the Ocoee police chief was well aware of allegations against Lt. Dreasher at least two years before his department launched a formal investigation.
It all began almost three years before WFTV reported on the lack of investigation into the police lieutenant, officers who were involved told Blue Lives Matter.
OPD Officer Carlos Anglero said he was working patrol one night when rookie OPD Officer Stevens Bertrand, whom he had trained, called him for help on a burglary report.
The victim told police his neighbor had broken into his house and stolen $200 in jewelry because of a drug debt, Officer Anglero said.
So the officers went to the neighbor’s house, and asked about the stolen property.
The suspect admitted to “taking what he owed her,” but said that she didn’t have the jewelry anymore because she had sold it to the brother-in-law of an Ocoee police officer, Officer Anglero said.
The victim told the officers that he knew how to contact the cop’s brother-in-law who had purchased the property, so he called the brother-in-law and asked him to come over to discuss it.
Officers Anglero and Bertrand were waiting, hidden, when the brother-in-law arrived at the victim’s house, Officer Anglero said.
He said that as soon as the victim identified the vehicle, he and Officer Bertrand stopped it.
“I took the driver’s side and Officer Bertrand took the passenger side,” he said. “We told them to lower the windows.”
“That’s when I discovered the person driving the SUV was the Ocoee patrol lieutenant,” Officer Anglero said.
The cop in the driver’s seat was Lt. Dreasher, and his passenger was his brother-in-law, according to Officer Anglero.
“The lieutenant just sat there and looked at us. I told him to shut the car off and put the keys on the dash. He complied,” he said.
Officer Anglero said the brother-in-law got out of the car and told the victim, in front of the officers, “My associate isn’t going to be happy if you called the cops.”
Then the brother-in-law offered to give the jewelry back to the victim if he would just “stop cooperating” with the police, the officer said.
At that point, Officer Anglero said the victim decided not to press charges, and tore up the statement he’d just given police.
“Bertrand just looked at me like ‘WTF just happened?’ I said I’m still trying to figure it out myself,” the officer said.
Uncomfortable with the entire exchange, Officer Anglero contacted an OPD detective to tell him what happened.
Officer Anglero said he told Agent Eric Collado, and that the agent told him he was not surprised. He advised Officer Anglero to contact OPD Sergeant Robert Rivera with the information.
“I went over to Sgt. Rivera’s house and woke him up and talked to him,” the officer explained.
“I told him what happened. Before I could even tell Bob who the driver was, he stopped me and told me who the driver was,” Officer Anglero said. “He said there have been rumors for years," but nobody had actually been able to prove Lt. Dreasher was involved in any criminal activity.
Officer Anglero said that Sgt. Rivera reported the bizarre encounter to the deputy chief, but not immediately.
First, Agent Collado contacted the Florida Department of Law Enforcement (FDLE), Officer Anglero said.
But Agent Collado’s contact at FDLE was retiring and Officer Anglero said that he referred them to his replacement, who told Agent Collado to go back to his own agency to report his concerns.
He told Agent Collado that FDLE doesn’t investigate police departments, Officer Anglero said.
At that point, Sgt. Rivera reported the incident to OPD Deputy Chief Steve Goclon, according to Officer Anglero. But still nothing happened.
No internal investigation was opened, and Officer Anglero said that they heard nothing more about it until a year later, when he filed a grievance after he was passed over for a promotion.
When he tested for a promotion to the rank of corporal and had to go before the promotion panel, Lt. Dreasher and his best friend were two of the three officials on the panel.
Officer Anglero was passed over for promotion despite excellent test scores and a stellar record, so he complained.
When human resources investigated his grievance, he told them about Lt. Dreasher’s conflict of interest.
Officer Anglero said that Chief Brown denied, at the time, having any knowledge of the allegations that had been made against Lt. Dreasher.
Shortly after that, Officer Anglero was assigned to a multi-agency undercover narcotics task force, but he said that he couldn’t seem to escape the shadow of Lt. Dreasher.
His second day in the narcotics unit, Orange County Sheriff’s Sergeant Keith Vidler pulled Officer Anglero aside and asked him what had happened between him and Lt. Dreasher.
Sgt. Vidler told him that the unit had “received tips from numerous sources about the lieutenant being shady,” Officer Anglero said.
“They were taking the tips but they weren’t doing anything with it,” he said.
“I was like you’ve got to be kidding me. I’ve already been screwed by [Lt. Dreasher] before. I just can’t catch a break,” Officer Anglero said.
The very same afternoon, Ocoee Police Officer Stephanie Roberts, who was working as a school resource officer, contacted Officer Anglero and said she had a confidential informant at the high school who had information about police officers who were selling drugs, and providing protection to gangs in the city.
Undercover narcotics Officers Anglero and Hegyes responded and interviewed the girl.
He said the high school student had been a reliable informant in the past.
“The gang unit had been using her to help identify gang members around the city, as far as who was who. And the FBI’s Safe Streets Task Force also used this girl’s information to identify people in the targeted area,” Officer Anglero said.
After she identified the two officers, the girl also provided his unit with information about where one gang’s stash house was, and told them who was importing the drugs from Texas.
At that point, Officer Anglero said the narcotics unit knew it couldn’t sit on the information about Lt. Dreasher anymore.
First, they reached out to FDLE for help, but again, FDLE told them they don’t investigate other agencies.
Officers Hegyes and Anglero told WFTV they weren’t sure who they could trust to give the information.
“We're trying, assessing who to give it to, because it's like a hot potato. You don't know who to give it to,” Officer Hegyes said.
Perplexed about who they could trust and who they could turn to, Officer Anglero said he suggested they talk to the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) contacts they’d made working with the agency’s Safe Streets Task Force.
He set up a meeting for himself and another member of the narcotics unit, Orange County Sheriff’s Corporal Kyle Peterson.
“Myself and Cpl. Peterson met with the FBI corruption unit and the Safe Streets people," Officer Anglero said. He said that the Safe Streets people were already aware of the lieutenant.
At the end of the meeting, they had a game plan for an investigation, but it was short-lived.
An Ocoee police sergeant “let the cat out of the bag and told the lieutenant he was being investigated,” Officer Anglero said.
The harassment and retribution against the whistleblowers started almost immediately, he said.
Officer Anglero said the department transferred him and Officer Hegyes out of the narcotics unit for six months, claiming staffing issues, and reassigned Officer Anglero to report directly to Lt. Dreasher.
Lt. Dreasher tried to get the officers kicked out of narcotics when their six-month hiatus was up, Officer Anglero said.
“Lt. Dreasher got mad and filed a complaint on Sgt. Vidler of the narcotics unit with the sheriff’s department, for conducting an unauthorized investigation into the Ocoee Police Department,” he explained.
The “chief’s notes” that Blue Lives Matter obtained pertain to a meeting that took place between the two departments after Lt. Dreasher filed his complaint. The notes have the official stamp of the OCSO Professional Standards Division.
After Lt. Dreasher filed the complaint, another lieutenant, who was his friend, transferred Officers Anglero and Hegyes out of the drug task force, and put them back on patrol, Officer Anglero said.
At that point, Officer Anglero said he gave up, and decided it was time to look for a transfer to another police department. He said he talked to his police union representative about it, and they supported his decision.
The union checked with the chief and told Officer Anglero the chief had blessed the plan, so he applied for a position with the Seminole County Sheriff’s Office.
But when Seminole County called the Ocoee Police for his internal affairs file for the background investigation, Officer Anglero’s transfer came to a screeching halt.
“They’re vindictive and they’re spiteful,” Officer Anglero said bitterly.
Police sources said that OPD did not open an internal affairs investigation into Lt. Dreasher prior to his retirement, but the department did launch internal affairs investigations into Officers Anglero, Hegyes, and Roberts, the very same day that the sheriff’s office requested Officer Anglero’s file.
Officer Anglero said that OPD came after them all aggressively, eventually determining they’d violated department procedure when they reported Lt. Dreasher to the Orange County Sheriff’s Office.
WFTV reported that Ocoee police officials had cleared Lt. Dreasher of wrongdoing without actually investigating him, and said that OPD claimed a separate investigation had cleared the official.
When WFTV broke the news about the allegations against Lt. Dreasher and the department’s weak response to it on Feb. 4, 2016, the Ocoee police chief was deeply embarrassed, Officer Anglero said.
He said retribution against the whistleblowers immediately worsened.
First, Officer Hegyes resigned on Feb. 4, 2016, the same day the station’s investigation aired, after he was reprimanded for not going to his chain of command about what he said he heard about Lt. Dreasher, WFTV reported.
Then four days later, on Feb. 8, 2016, both Officers Anglero and Roberts were involved in an officer-involved shooting incident that occurred after dispatchers sent patrol officers to the wrong address to respond to a call for a domestic dispute where one party was holding the other against her will.
Shots were fired when the officers were confronted by an armed subject, but nobody was hit.
Their police department didn’t back them up when the state’s attorney’s office investigated the officer-involved shooting. Even when the office of State Attorney Aramis Ayala called both officers before a grand jury, the Ocoee police did nothing to support them.
Ayala has made headlines for refusing to pursue the death penalty for cop killers.
The grand jury cleared Officer Roberts, who had shot first, and indicted Officer Anglero, who shot second in an effort to give other officers cover to retreat.
In January, a jury convicted Officer Anglero of shooting into an occupied dwelling, and he will be sentenced on March 27.
The State Attorney’s office told James Smith, Officer Anglero’s attorney, that she’s going for the maximum amount of time for the decorated police officer who didn’t actually shoot anybody.
Officer Anglero said his department has offered him "zero support" in what is indisputably an unusual and highly controversial conviction of a decorated officer who injured no one.
He called the lack of help from Ocoee police "pure retribution."
Chief Brown told Blue Lives Matter that Officer Anglero was a “disgruntled officer,” and refused to comment on his case.
Blue Lives Matter left messages for former Lt. Dreasher seeking comment, but did not receive a response.
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