WINDERMERE, Fla. - A Windermere police officer was arrested on charges of official misconduct and threatening a public servant amid an investigation into allegations that officers were profiling citizens.
Officer Jason Darnell was arrested Friday morning on felony charges after the Florida Department of Law Enforcement completed its investigation into incidents that occurred last year.
Darnell, who had been with the Windermere Police Department for five years, was charged with two counts of threatening a public servant with the intent to influence a public duty and three counts of official misconduct. The charges range between second and third-degree felonies.
The investigation, which was rooted in claims of bias-based profiling against motorists in Windermere, were brought to light by Windermere police Officer Alejandro Rivera. The allegations surfaced in June, suggesting that Darnell and another officer were profiling motorists based on things such as race, gender, religion and other criteria.
Then Interim Chief Ted Brown brought the matter to Town Manager Robert Smith, who contacted FDLE. When FDLE launched an investigation, officers Darnell and Ryan Miller were placed on paid administrative leave, per town policy.
"These issues occurred last year and have been thoroughly and properly investigated by the FDLE," Windermere Police Chief David Ogden said. "There is no place for these kinds of activities in law enforcement and most especially in this police department. Since I began my administration in January, I have made my leadership philosophies and expectations very clear. Additionally, I have begun implementing new policies and procedures to ensure that Windermere residents and visitors here are served by a highly professional and proper law enforcement agency."
Miller, who had been on paid administrative leave, was suspended without pay on Friday, pending an internal investigation to be conducted by the Police Department and the Orange County Sheriff's Office, Odgen said. Due to the investigation, details about the case cannot be revealed.
Ogden made the announcement Friday morning at a news conference at Windermere Town Hall and was joined by representatives from FDLE and the Orange County Sheriff's Office and by Town Manager Robert Smith and Mayor Gary Bruhn.
"I want the residents of Windermere to hear from me that these kinds of acts will not be tolerated under an circumstance," said Ogden.
The Windermere Police Department has been tangled in controversy over the last few years. Ogden has only been on the job as chief for a few months.
Former Police Chief Daniel Saylor pleaded no contest to misconduct for trying to protect his friend, Scott Bush, from a child rape investigation. Saylor was recently re-arrested on charges of lying on the stand during the trial.
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