DAVIE, Fla. – A Florida police chief has largely been cleared of wrongdoing after an investigation said he hadn't acted with hostility when he tried to allay his officers' fears of coronavirus by pointing out a sheriff's deputy who died of the disease was gay.
The South Florida Sun Sentinel reports that an outside investigation said Wednesday allegations that Davie Chief Dale Engle yelled at his officers during an April roll call about their concerns were unfounded, but said he used bad judgement when he brought up Broward Sheriff Deputy Shannonn Bennett’s sexuality.
“In light of the state of concerns regarding coronavirus, the chief did have reason to address those concerns or beliefs regarding where the BSO (Broward Sheriff’s Office) deputy may have contracted the virus,” the investigation documents state. “It is understandable that the chief wanted to alleviate his officers’ fears, however the reference to the private, sexual orientation of any officer in the context of doing so was inappropriate and unnecessary.”
The investigation started after the state’s police union sent a letter to administrators in the Fort Lauderdale suburb.
Engle has been on leave since shortly after the accusation was made and he plans to retire next week.
He told the Sun Sentinel on Wednesday that all he was trying to do was provide his officers with information.
“Information is power,” he said. “This is a time when we need to come together and not be divided. Could I have said it differently? Of course I could have.”