UPD reinstates four officers involved in Corry Village incident
GAINESVILLE, Fla. — Four of the University of Florida Police Department officers involved in the March 2 incident at Corry Village were reinstated to full duty today by UPD Chief Linda Stump.
Officers Bill Ledger, Keith Smith, Will Sasser and James Mabry have been on administrative duty since shortly after the incident. UPD’s internal affairs investigation process is nearly complete, and Stump has determined there is sufficient information indicating the officers followed lawful orders given by the commanding officer in charge of the scene at Corry Village on the night of March 2.
The internal affairs investigation follows an investigation conducted by the Florida Department of Law Enforcement and the State Attorney’s Office. Based on the information obtained, the State Attorney determined there was no basis for criminal charges against any of the officers.
Florida law, specifically the Police Officer Bill of Rights, prohibits university officials from disclosing information about an investigation or related confidential information until that process is completed. In compliance with that law, the university will not release any documents on the investigation nor comment further on the investigation at this time.
“I know in my heart no officer in this department wants to hurt anyone unnecessarily,” Stump said. “Police officers can be forced to make split-second, life-or-death decisions. And, in these situations, we must be vigilant to investigate all factors thoroughly and allow the process to be fully completed.”
The university contracted with Margolis Healy & Associates, a firm with extensive experience in campus police matters and public safety, to evaluate UF’s internal affairs review protocols and ensure that the police department strictly followed them during the internal review process.
“The University of Florida Police Department is accredited by the Commission on Accreditation for Law Enforcement Agencies, and our review of the department’s professional standards policies confirmed that these policies are in conformance with internationally recognized accreditation standards that reflect best practices. They have followed the process dictated by these policies,” Gary Margolis said.
Separate from the investigation of the incident, UF President Bernie Machen asked Margolis Healy to help the university take a critical look at other policies and procedures.
“This has been a very difficult situation for everyone involved,” Machen said, “Whatever the conclusions are at the end of the investigation, it is important for the university to continuously improve.”
In the coming weeks, the university expects to receive recommendations from Margolis Healy on how protocols for law enforcement, housing and mental health counseling services, and the way these groups interface, may be enhanced. Margolis Healy is nationally recognized for its law enforcement expertise, and it has been awarded a grant by the U.S. Justice Department to teach good campus policing practices in situations involving students, faculty and staff with mental health issues.
In the meantime, Stump has pledged to place extra focus on building a better partnership between students living on campus and the police department through community outreach efforts, such as the Student Community Oriented Policing Effort, or SCOPE, program. Additionally, she has asked Machen to form a campus committee to advise the police chief on police policy. The president is expected to name a chair as well as other faculty, student and staff members soon.
The advisory committee’s duties are limited by Florida law. Members cannot investigate police conduct or determine discipline. The Police Officer Bill of Rights authorizes only police departments to undertake such investigations and determinations.
- Janine Sikes, firstname.lastname@example.org, 352-846-3903