Can black cops change police culture in Tampa?

When Wyche received the following August letter informing him of the conclusion of the investigation, he felt that a target had been placed on his back.

Police officers who report their colleagues often face reprisals. Last year, USA Today reporters identified 300 examples of officers who had reported misconduct over the past decade and found that they were all eventually expelled from their departments. Some have received death threats or dead rats in their lockers. Others saw their requests for reinforcements ignored or quickly found themselves embroiled in disciplinary cases.

Wyche already had a stain on his file. In March, he received a written warning – his first major warning – after weapons were stolen from his police vehicle.

He’d used a loaner van that didn’t have a safe key while his regular car was being repaired. He left his guns in the car parked outside his house because he didn’t want to have guns inside with his son, he said – but it violated the policy. Supervisors also verbally warned him about his use of social media, saying they feared his posts led to his car being broken into, although they produced no direct evidence.

A week after the traffic stop investigation closed in August, Wyche was in trouble again. During an elementary school presentation, he put his gun’s magazine in a basket on the teacher’s desk, fearing the excited kids would try to grab it from his pocket as he moved around. the class. Then he forgot it. When an employee found him the next day, the school was closed.

Following his second violation in a year, Wyche was kicked off the SWAT team.

He took it hard. The team had been a culmination of his career dreams, and he saw it as a punishment for speaking out.

He couldn’t help but obsess over all the little details and feelings of betrayal that had led to his expulsion. The way a teammate he didn’t know very well had complained to his supervisors about his social media accounts instead of speaking to him directly. The time a colleague told him other officers were “shooting” him. How his bosses said there were no replacement weapons to give him after his was stolen – but how, months later, they had weapons to give new recruits to the team.

He knew he had made mistakes, but he also worried that the scrutiny and discipline were signs of deeper exclusion — that supervisors were building a pattern of incompetence that could lead to dismissal.

The way he started to see it, he had given the department his all, but his SWAT “family” had turned their back on him and rejected him as soon as he spoke out about the rights of black teenagers.

He collected all that outrage in a discrimination complaint he filed with the state, alleging that, as one of two black men on the SWAT team, he was singled out for media surveillance. social workers, against whom he was retaliated against for reporting a teammate to Internal Affairs, and never reissued service weapons after his were stolen, putting him at risk on the job.

Discrimination cases are hard to win without an undeniable, documented case of unfairness or a clear trend over time. Wyche had a collection of perceived selective treatments. The city responded with its own interpretation of those incidents, including that eight years earlier a white SWAT member was kicked off the team for inappropriate social media conduct. His offenses included posts that showed him drinking while driving a boat, among 10 other incidents that displayed “egregious behavior”.

Wyche’s discrimination case was dismissed.

His troubles continued. The following year, Wyche’s gun accidentally discharged in its holster as he exited his car.

Wyche was kicked out of undercover work and undercover work and sent back to work night shifts to field the incessant calls into the agency’s lower ranks. He filed another discrimination complaint, but that didn’t work either.

Colleagues thought Wyche’s treatment stood out.

“For the past two years they’ve been on his back – anytime he did something they thought was wrong, they would go after him badly,” said James Dausch, a retired white officer who worked with him. Wyche in the violent crime unit. . “To me, he’s a great officer and now he has a reputation for being wrong and getting in trouble for things that other people don’t get in trouble for.”

Wyche’s current supervisor, Reginald James, said he believed leaders like former chief Brian Dugan were looking to evict Wyche.

“As a policeman he’s very, very good and shouldn’t have the kind of problems he has,” James said.

The agency declined to answer questions about the case or the characterization of his career by Wyche and others. Dugan, who retired last September, said he lost faith in Wyche because he felt he didn’t take responsibility for his mistakes. He confirmed that in a meeting he called Wyche “incompetent” and an “embarrassment to the department”. When asked if he thought Wyche should be on the force, he replied, “It’s probably good for him that I left.”

Meanwhile, in 2019, Toole was promoted to corporal. The agency posted a video of one of the ceremonies with a caption celebrating “18 of the best and brightest”.

At times, Wyche would confide his frustrations to Randolph, the Black Lives Matter activist. The relentless optimism that had initially bothered her was wearing thin. “It probably hurt him a lot to find that the thin blue line only goes so deep, and at the end of the day it’s black,” she said.

Last June, Wyche was driving down Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Boulevard, mulling over his work troubles in his head, when he lost control of his car and crashed into an iron bar. He slammed through the window, narrowly missing him. For the first time, he called the agency’s mental health hotline. He wondered how much longer he would stay in the force.

About Rodney Fletcher

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