TAMPA defense attorney Richard Escobar said Thursday he was confident his newest client, suspended Tampa police officer Jarda Bradford, would be cleared of crimes she manipulated with evidence.
The attorney said the detective made procedural errors – but did not break the law.
He then made his own charges: Escobar said the Tampa Police Department had only trained Bradford 20 minutes in her new role as a detective and that she was forced to work in a “toxic” environment that caused six detectives in her department to leave three Months.
“Mistakes were made,” said Escobar. “But it is the reason for these mistakes that I consider so crucial and important. I hope that along with the discharge, we will uncover things in this community that people will be shocked about. “
Tampa police officers deny the attorney’s allegations, and Police Chief Brian Dugan says Braford made more than just mistakes. The 38-year-old detective was arrested on Tuesday for double manipulation of evidence in an attempted murder.
The boss said the detective failed to mask earrings in a photo constellation she put together before showing them to witnesses. This violates procedures that require the removal of “overly suggestive details” from the photos shown to witnesses. When she was made aware of the mistake, Dugan said she subsequently modified the photos and presented them as evidence in the case, hence the two charges.
Dugan held a press conference that day to announce her arrest. She was suspended without pay and the police have started releasing her. She attended her attorney’s press conference on Thursday but did not speak.
Connected: The Tampa police officer is charged with manipulating evidence
Tampa police spokesman Eddy Durkin denied these allegations in a statement Thursday. He also shared new details on the allegations against Bradford, saying she also forged another witness’s initials on a second photographic statement.
“Your actions, which are not all criminal, have put the successful prosecution of an attempted murder suspect at risk,” Durkin said. “There was a procedural error which was followed by criminal manipulation of evidence. Both the Hillsborough District Attorney and a judge agreed and signed the charges as appropriate. “
But Escobar, who held his own press conference Thursday, denied the allegations against Bradford, saying police officers are not telling the full story.
“We’ll have our day in court,” he said. “But unfortunately we had to come to you today to discuss issues that are important for the general public to understand.”
Bradford spent 15 years in law enforcement and became a detective two and a half months ago.
“If you get raised into a detective department, you don’t get any training,” Escobar said, citing previous statements from detectives. “My customer received absolutely no training. And then she was hired to investigate a serious crime – a first degree murder attempt – without training. “
Durkin denied the attorney’s claim by saying, “There is an established policy that is under review and a Florida State statute for training photo packages.” Her training was completed on August 10, he said.
Escobar also said his client was forced to work for a manager in a “toxic” and “forced” work environment. He said another six detectives who worked for the same supervisor left their department between July and October.
Durkin said in a statement that one detective was promoted and the others accepted other assignments. None of the six resigned, said the spokesman.
“You have enough pressure as a detective who goes day in and day out,” said Escobar. “You have this pressure and then you have to go into the office and face the chaos that’s so widespread that six detectives left the unit. There is no doubt that she was intimidated every day when she walked into this office. “
In Dugan’s words on Tuesday, Escobar reiterated that Bradford’s mistakes were part of a “procedural error” – but one that did not alter the physical evidence. The mistakes were made after a suspect was already arrested, the attorney said, based in part on a photographic listing that Bradford duly created. Tampa police officers have not released details of the October 17th shootings and investigation that led to the detective’s suspension and arrest.
Escobar also criticized the department’s lack of diversity, saying that the U.S. census shows that insufficient black officers are serving in a city that is 24 percent black. And the lawyer called out Dugan.
“Is he really a boss who has been connected to the African American community like he should,” Escobar said. “I don’t want to say that (the Tampa Police) were racially motivated in every way. But I wonder why we don’t have more African American cops in this community. “
Escobar also criticized the boss for denying his request to meet before the boss’s arrest on Tuesday and the boss’s press conference. The attorney said he was hoping to go through the case law with Dugan and accused the boss of trying to look good at Bradford’s expense.
“There are some wonderful officers at TPD,” said Escobar, “but we have a serious problem at the top.”