- Associated Press - Sunday, November 24, 2013

TALLAHASSEE, FLA. (AP) - Its handling of sexual assault allegations against Florida State quarterback Jameis Winston is just the latest controversy to hit the Tallahassee Police Department.

A handful of grand juries recently have issued scathing reports about how some officers have conducted themselves in the line of duty. In the most egregious case, a fumbled drug investigation resulted in the death of an informant.

Now, the department is coming under scrutiny for its handling of a sexual assault case in which a Heisman Trophy candidate stands as the accused. The family of the student who says she was raped claims the department tried to squelch the case: It took 11 months for Tallahassee police to hand over information to prosecutors.

Patricia Carroll, the attorney representing the alleged victim in the Winston case, said last week she “had no faith whatsoever” in the Police Department.

On the same day the department handed over the Winston case to prosecutors, a Leon County grand jury issued a stinging report criticizing the department for how it handled a drunken driving arrest. The arrest _ which left the female driver with a broken bone in her face _ created such an uproar this fall that it prompted Chief Dennis Jones to abruptly retire.

The video from the August arrest of Christina West showed officers slamming her into a police car before throwing her to the ground. West can be heard screaming in the video. West’s attorney said the police “treated her like an animal” and has already placed the city on notice that West plans to sue them.

The grand jury blamed the department _ which has placed the two officers involved in the arrest on administrative leave _ for allowing the situation to escalate.

“We find the sarcastic comments and lack of professionalism by the arresting officers, after Ms. West was injured, was disconcerting,” the grand jury said in its presentment. “We further find that the sergeants failed to intervene in the arrest and also deescalate the situation by not following their own policies and procedures. They also failed to demonstrate the respect for citizens that this community demands from its law enforcement officers.”

Interim police Chief Tom Coe contends that a handful of incidents should not be used to tarnish the entire department.

“When you consider we handle over 300,000 incidents a year and we have very few issues out of those 300,000, that’s a good department,” said Coe, a veteran officer who had been the Tallahassee police chief in `90s.

But State Attorney Willie Meggs _ who is still deciding whether to bring charges against Winston _ said “it’s clear that it’s an agency with some problems.”

“But it’s also clear that Chief Coe is trying to deal with those problems, and it’s also extremely clear that are many, many good police officers who work there and want it to be a top notch agency,” Meggs said.

The report issued Nov. 12 on the West case was the third grand jury report released in the last five years to slam the department.

The most damning report came in the wake of the May 2008 death of Rachel Hoffman. Hoffman, a Florida State University graduate who was recruited by police as an informant after being caught with drugs, was shot five times after police lost track of her during a drug deal.

Hoffman, of Safety Harbor, was sent alone by police with $13,000 in marked bills to buy Ecstasy, cocaine and a gun, according to records. Instead, the men killed her and stole her car, a credit card and the marked money.

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