CRESTVIEW — Last September, Police Chief Tony Taylor inherited a department mired in scandal and divided in its loyalties.
He said he has struggled to unite the force since taking over for fired Chief Brian Mitchell, but doesn’t believe he can do so until after the criminal trial of Maj. Joseph Floyd.
Taylor said he has spoken to every Crestview police employee since his hiring and “has observed a lot of tension.”
“We’ve still got a pretty big divide in the agency, and we’re not going to be able to put it behind us until this is over one way or another,” Taylor said. “I can’t pick up the momentum I need until after the trial.”
Floyd was arrested March 5, 2012, after a grand jury indicted for racketeering. His trial has been continued six times since then, most recently Feb. 28, when a March 18 court date was moved back to July 15.
Floyd’s indictment followed a lengthy investigation of the police department by the Florida Department of Law Enforcement and the state attorney’s office.
More than 40 witnesses were interviewed and testified before the grand jury, records show. Many witnesses were police department employees.
Taylor said the employees, “like in any agency, have opinions they’re passionate about, opinions that will remain until something is resolved.”
The charges leveled against Floyd indicate he was, at least, a divisive force in the department.
The indictment charged him with ordering or encouraging officers in his command to use excessive force.
It also alleged Floyd “frequently made derogatory comments to other officers about women and racial minorities.”
The grand jury’s presentment alleges Floyd “solicited sexual acts, using graphic, crude and vulgar language” and that the solicitations included fellow employees. It alleges he fondled a subordinate officer against her will.
Mitchell, who had been friends with Floyd when they worked for the Havana Police Department, also was subjected to grand jury scrutiny. While he was not indicted, jurors found his performance in regard to Floyd lacking.
The grand jury called for him to be fired and disciplined.
Mitchell brought Floyd to the Crestview department, apparently knowing he had been arrested in his past and had been in trouble as a police officer at other agencies.
The grand jury found Mitchell had shielded Floyd from pre-employment scrutiny when he was hired and that he failed to report Floyd’s alleged misdeeds to Crestview Mayor David Cadle, who oversees the police department.
It said Mitchell ordered officers with complaints against Floyd “to go through the chain of command,” which meant bringing them first to Floyd.
Jurors said Mitchell took no action after sexual harassment complaints were leveled against Floyd.
“His failure to redress Maj. Floyd’s offensive and humiliating conduct toward women and co-workers is indefensible,” the report said.
When Cadle announced he was firing Mitchell last April, he cited eroded trust and confidence in the community and low morale in the police department.
In their presentment, grand jurors noted “the conduct, courage and dedication” of most police department employees. Jurors commended the rank and file for “their fortitude and their devotion to duty in a hostile and dysfunctional work environment.”
The behavior of “officers who have endured hardship above and beyond what we would expect police officers and their families to endure was truly exemplary and heartening,” the report said.
Contact Daily News Staff Writer Tom McLaughlin at 850-315-4435 or firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter @TomMnwfdn.