Miami-Dade County

Top cop accused of thwarting investigations quits Florida prison system

Jeffery Beasley, then-Inspector General of the Florida prison system, testified before lawmakers in 2014.
Jeffery Beasley, then-Inspector General of the Florida prison system, testified before lawmakers in 2014.

Jeffery Beasley, who was accused of covering up and thwarting investigations into human rights abuses in the Florida prison system, has resigned, the Miami Herald has learned.

Beasley, the former inspector general for the Florida Department of Corrections, has accepted a post as chief of investigations for the Leon County Sheriff’s Department, Sheriff Walt McNeil confirmed Wednesday.

“As is often the case in state government, in particular positions, sometimes you have to carry a burden for higher levels of state government,’’ McNeil said. “I make no excuses for him, but I believe his background and experience and the level of professionalism he displayed throughout his career speaks volumes.’’

McNeil said Beasley will start Jan. 3.

Beasley’s departure comes a little more than a year after he stepped down from his top cop post at the embattled state prisons agency. In October 2015, he was given a new title — director of investigations — despite months of widespread criticism and allegations that he and others in his office failed to investigate and, in some instances, even derailed cases involving the abuse and even death of prisoners in Florida prisons.

Earlier this month, the state paid $800,000 to end a retaliation lawsuit brought by several of his former employees, all inspectors whose reputations and careers were damaged after they tried to expose wrongdoing by state corrections officers. Beasley placed some of the inspectors under internal investigation after they failed to heed his warning to stop pursuing evidence in several cases, including one involving a 27-year-old inmate who was gassed to death by officers in 2010.

In an interview with the Miami Herald last year, Beasley, 42, declined to the address the allegations, which were still being litigated. However, he contended that he was unfairly portrayed in the media and inherited an outdated and understaffed department that was unable to handle 600,000 complaints a year with just 110 inspectors.“When you look at what I’ve done — yes, you can look at all the negatives — but I’m proud to say there’s a tremendous amount of accomplishment within the department,’’ he said. Among other things, the inspector’s general’s office was formally accredited by the Florida Commission on Accreditation, which reviews law enforcement agencies across the state.

Michelle Glady, FDC spokeswoman, said Beasley’s resignation is not yet official — but she confirmed he is “leaving for a new opportunity.’’

She added that his decision was voluntary and not related to the lawsuit that was recently settled.

Doug Glisson, a former FDC senior investigator, questioned whether McNeil had thoroughly vetted Beasley. As the sheriff’s top investigator, Beasley will oversee most of the criminal cases in Leon County — but not in Tallahassee, which has its own police force.

“The person in that position would need to be above reproach and Jeff Beasley showed a complete lack of ethics in the Department of Corrections,’’ said Glisson, one of three inspectors who sued the agency alleging retaliation by Beasley.

The Miami Herald reached out to Beasley through the FDC but he did not respond to a request for comment Wednesday night.

As FDC’s inspector general, Beasley’s mission was to “protect and promote public integrity” and root out corruption in the department.

Beasley’s troubles began in 2013, when two of his investigators, inspectors Aubrey Land and John Ulm, told him that they had found a pattern of corruption in the agency: corrections officers lying and falsifying reports, fellow inspectors who had sabotaged cases and misled FDLE investigators and inmate deaths that were the result of abuse or medical neglect.

The inspectors alleged that Beasley told them to stick to the “low-lying fruit,’’ and not try to tackle anything that would tarnish the agency. The inspectors complained to Gov. Rick Scott’s chief inspector general, Melinda Miguel, who began an investigation that eventually cleared Beasley.

But an investigation by the Miami Herald in 2014 revealed that Beasley’s office had a history of dismissing abuse cases and avoiding prosecutions of corrections officials accused of wrongdoing. In some cases, the Herald found, officers accused of abusing or neglecting inmates had been promoted.

As more suspicious inmate deaths and abuses were uncovered by the Herald in 2015, pressure mounted against Beasley. The Florida Senate’s Criminal Justice Committee began hearings in February 2015. Ulm, Glisson and Land testified under oath that Beasley had directed them to back off investigating the death of Randall Jordan-Aparo, who was gassed to death at Franklin Correctional Institution in 2010.

Jordan-Aparo, who suffered from a genetic blood disorder, was repeatedly sprayed by officers with chemicals. The inspectors found that he had done nothing more than demand that nurses treat him for disease-related breathing problems that had flared up the day before his death. Corrections officers forced him into a solitary confinement cell and kept spraying him as he begged for help, the inspectors found.

One day after Beasley was questioned by the Senate committee, Glisson was hit with six internal affairs complaints. He was removed from handling cases and assigned to a room with a desk and no computer.

In June, an independent law enforcement panel ruled that Beasley and others in his office had violated Glisson’s rights, breached department protocol and allowed harassing behavior. But the panel stopped short of ruling that the acts were criminal, since they found no “overwhelming intent’’ by the agency.

Still, the three inspectors brought a civil lawsuit against the agency, which was settled by the state earlier this month.

Beasley, once a law officer in Escambia, Ala., began his career in Florida with the Florida Department of Law Enforcement, monitoring slot machines and gaming applications in Broward County. He then moved to Tallahassee to become a special agent supervisor.

He was hired by then-FDC Secretary Ken Tucker in 2011 to head up the prison agency’s inspector general’s office.

McNeil, who was secretary of the Department of Corrections from 2008 to 2010, was elected sheriff of Leon County in November. He said he formerly worked with Beasley while they were both with FDLE.

“I’ve known him directly for a number of years and I know his reputation as an investigator,’’ McNeil said. “He has done a lot of intelligence work and I know the good work he’s done and the good work he can do.’’