Altamonte officer cleared after Winter Park police chief files complaint about wife’s crash
Records show officer felt like chief was trying to ‘influence’ him
ALTAMONTE SPRINGS, Fla. – An Altamonte Springs officer was cleared of wrongdoing after the Winter Park police chief filed a complaint about how he handled a crash involving his wife, records show.
According to an internal affairs report, the crash happened Nov. 22 when Summer Deal side-swiped a trailer that was attached to a truck that was parked in the fire lane outside a Costco.
No one was injured. Summer Deal’s van had some damage on its side but the trailer was not damaged.
When the officer initially approached Summer Deal, he told her that there had been some complaints about her van blocking the road and she responded by telling him she’d just been in a crash.
“That makes sense,” the officer replied.
Records show Summer Deal was the only person who reported the crash to authorities.
Body camera video of the incident shows Summer Deal was on the phone throughout the encounter, including when she explained the circumstances of the crash to the officer.
“I thought I cleared his truck trailer but I didn’t,” Summer Deal said.
Altamonte Springs Police released nearly 30 minutes of body camera video showing the aftermath of the crash. A portion of the footage is available in the video player at the top of this story.
In the footage, the officer is also seen speaking to the driver of the truck and his wife.
“She happened to run into my trailer and it’s my fault somehow because she can’t drive. She’s like ‘Oh, you can’t leave. I wouldn’t even be calling the police but it’s a lot of damage,’” the truck driver said.
The officer told the couple and Summer Deal that the department doesn’t typically investigate parking lot crashes as long as no one is seriously injured, so he’d only be facilitating in making sure that both drivers exchanged information, the video shows.
As the officer is inputting information for both drivers, he’s speaking with the couple while Summer Deal is parked in a nearby parking spot so that her vehicle would not block traffic.
About 20 minutes into the encounter, Summer Deal approaches the officer and tells him not to let the couple leave the scene before he talks to her husband, who is on the phone.
Video shows Summer Deal didn’t tell the officer that her husband is Michael Deal, the Winter Park Police chief.
She said her husband wanted to know whether the officer wrote the truck driver a citation since he was parked in the fire lane.
The officer takes the phone and tells the husband that he addressed the situation with the other driver.
At one point, Summer Deal interrupts.
“It’s actually Chief Michael Deal, just letting you know. DC of Altamonte, chief of Winter Park,” she said.
The officer wrote in his report he was caught off guard by the comment because he had no idea that he was speaking to a police chief and he hadn’t been addressing him by the proper title.
Chief Michael Deal is on the phone and can’t be heard in the body camera video but the officer wrote that he felt that the chief was trying to “bully” him.
“I was shocked and dismayed at Mrs. and Chief Deal’s blatant lack of respect for my authority on scene, lack of understanding at the subjective nature of the calls we handle and the discretion and decisions that must be made during those calls and at what I still perceive to have been their attempts to intimidate, harass, belittle, influence and inferiorize me,” the officer wrote.
Records show the officer said Chief Michael Deal said during the conversation that he would contact the officer’s superior, pull body camera footage and initiate an internal investigation.
Toward the end of the video, while still on the phone with Chief Michael Deal, the officer attempts to calm down Summer Deal.
“If this was your car because of someone parked in the fire lane and it was your family car and we only have enough money off of a police officer’s salary for one car -- absolutely I’m upset,” she said. “And (the truck driver) sat there and shot the (expletive) with you the whole freaking time. It’s like it’s your buddy.”
The officer then handed Summer Deal her cellphone back, at the request of her husband, and she walked away, telling the officer to, “Have a blessed night.”
Records show that on Dec. 13, Chief Michael Deal filed a complaint about the officer alleging that the officer never properly interviewed Summer Deal, that a crash report should have been completed, that the officer was untruthful when he approached Summer Deal and when he told Chief Michael Deal that he addressed the fire lane issue and that the officer was unprofessional.
The officer’s superiors were interviewed as part of the investigation and they all agreed that the officer handled the situation properly and he didn’t need to write a crash report or issue a citation since the incident occurred in a parking lot, according to the report.
The truck driver and his wife were interviewed as well but Summer Deal and Chief Michael Deal declined when they were asked to come to the department as part of the investigation, officials said.
Records show that the officer was cleared of any wrongdoing. The report indicates that he also filed a complaint against Chief Michael Deal.
Chief Michael Deal has since been cleared of any wrongdoing.
“Today I received the final investigative report from FDLE Office of Executive Investigations Public Corruption Unit, which determined there were no violations of Florida State Statutes. Although I am pleased that Chief Deal has been cleared of the allegations, I regret the series of events surrounding this incident. I consider this matter closed,” Winter Park city manager Randy Knight said.
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