Dedicated to Sarah Phillips

Words to Live By

PursuitWatch Renews Call for Investigative Panel

May 30, 2005, Orlando, Florida

Recent events have demonstrated a crisis of management in the Orange County Sheriff’s Office Uniform Patrol Division. Public statements, as well as statements made to PursuitWatch by Chief Frank Fabrizio, co-commander of that division, have demonstrated a fundamental lack of “understanding” of the agency’s Vehicle Pursuit Policy.

Chief Fabrizio is guilty of a quick “rubber stamping” of his deputies’ actions in the May 15th “following” incident that resulted in the death of innocent bystanders, Frantz and Carole Leander. Studying the Supplementary Reports from many of the deputies involved, there emerges a consistent statement in many of them, “at no time did I have my lights and sirens activated.” It is hard to understand this when that statement is inconsistent with the statement of the OCSO dispatcher to the Orlando Police Department when requesting assistance, as well as the Florida Highway Patrol Charging Affidavit of the suspect and the radio tapes of the incident.

The Supplementary Report of Lt. Dennis Leonard gives the careful reader some insight into how this might happen, “At this point I, along with Sgt. Lynch met with the Deputies involved to work on all the required documentation needed.”

It appears that many OCSO deputies echo the faulty, and ultimately fatal, interpretation of the policy articulated by Chief Fabrizio-if they do not activate lights and siren and drive at the posted speed they are not in pursuit and are just following the suspect and, consequently, are in compliance with policy. This, as well as the, “Don’t ask. Don’t tell.” attitude demonstrated in the DS Kilgore/Ivey Lane incident, and other incidents that have been brought to the attention of PursuitWatch, brings into question the fitness of the present leadership of the Uniform Patrol Division and indicates a top-down systemic disregard of OCSO’s Vehicle Pursuit Policy.

PursuitWatch has received an email stating that the OCSO Professional Standards Division is in the process of an investigation of the events of May 15th. The narrow scope of this investigation is not acceptable. Additionally, the chain of command review of the events of May 15th and the subsequent underwriting of those events have demonstrated a breakdown of the internal review process and brings into question the ability of the OCSO to objectively review their own actions.

PursuitWatch renews its call for an independent panel, made up equally of citizens and Orange County Sheriff personnel to examine the following:

  • The May 15th incident and the apparent failure of the review process.
  • The overall compliance of the OCSO to the revised Vehicle Pursuit Policy.
  • Deficiencies in the OCSO Vehicle Pursuit Policy.
  • In an email to Sheriff Kevin Beary, Jim Phillips, President of PursuitWatch, has volunteered to serve on, or chair, an investigative panel. By endorsing an outside panel Sheriff Beary can demonstrate his continuing commitment to the integrity and credibility of the Orange County Sheriff’s Office.

    Jim Phillips, 2005