A Hollywood assistant police chief was suspended Wednesday while the department investigates allegations that he retaliated against officers who stood up to him and harassed female employees.
Assistant Police Chief Jimmy Jones, who is scheduled to retire in May, was put on administrative leave at full pay while the investigation in underway.
It is the latest challenge for a police department already dealing with a Florida Department of Law Enforcement and Broward State Attorney’s Office investigation into money missing from its evidence room, and officers complaining about pay cuts and being understaffed.
In the latest incident, Assistant City Manager Frank Fernandez confirmed Wednesday that Jones was asked to turn in his badge while the city looks into allegations made by a retired officer.
“[Interim Chief Vince Affanto] found it appropriate to take that course of action,” said Fernandez. “My intent is to have an organization that is of high integrity, and whatever means are necessary to accomplish that we are going to do it.”
Fernandez said he had no idea how long the investigation would take, but it would not be “rushed.”
Jones, 49, confirmed that he is on administrative leave, but declined to comment further.
The investigation was prompted by an email sent March 18 by former Officer Lori Norris to city officials accusing Jones of harassment, falsifying reports and retaliation.
“Yet another female officer was transferred out of a specialized unit to satisfy your need for revenge,” Norris wrote in the email. “Yes James that would be me. You transferred me out of the Homicide Unit against the will of every level of supervisor below you as per standard James Jones practice you told them not to question you.”
Norris retired in 2011. She could not be reached for comment Wednesday.
This is not the first time Jones has been investigated. Earlier this month he was cleared after an internal investigation into an anonymous letter that accused him of using a gay slur at a retirement party in August 2012.
In the closeout memo, Lt. Jack Anterio wrote that Jones believed Norris was behind the anonymous tip even though she did not attend the party.
“I am certain this ‘anonymous’ letter was written by Lori Norris, a former employee who has become obsessed with me since I transferred her out of the Homicide Unit,” Anterio’s memo quoted Jones as saying.
Jeff Marano, president of the Broward Police Benevolent Association, on Wednesday criticized management’s decision to place Jones on leave.
“It’s a ridiculous witch hunt,” Marano said, adding that if they are going to investigate, Jones should be allowed to at least work in the office. “To pay people to sit home is bad public policy. The taxpayers will probably have to pay him to stay home until he retires.”
It is unclear how much Jones, who has been with the department since 1983, is paid. As an assistant chief, he oversees the police department’s Investigations and Support Services Bureau.
While the city conducts its investigation into Jones, FDLE and the State Attorney’s Office are conducting an investigation into money missing from the police evidence locker room.
That investigation, which is ongoing, focuses on retired Sgt. John Nevins, who was in charge of overseeing the area.
Although FDLE has not confirmed how much money is missing, estimates range from $120,000 to $160,000.
Last month, a storeroom clerk, Tony Dong, was fired after an internal investigation revealed he had let Nevins, who was already retired, into the storeroom and allowed him to leave with office supplies. Surveillance cameras even showed Dong loading Nevins’ vehicle with the boxes.
Meanwhile, relations between the city and the police union have been tense since 2011, when the City Commission declared financial urgency and forced pay cuts of at least 12.5 percent on police officers.
Later that year, the city held a referendum in which voters agreed to slash their pension benefits.
“It left a bad taste in everyone’s mouth,” said Marano.
Fernandez, who in his capacity as assistant city manager oversees the police department, said he is working to mend relations between the city and the union.
“The employees have a feeling the city let them down,” Fernandez said. “The trust factor has faded. We need to rebuild that.”