By Dan Christensen, BrowardBulldog.org
A Broward Sheriff’s homicide detective has filed a whistleblower suit alleging that Sheriff Scott Israel and members of his command staff sought to cover up misconduct by a Fort Lauderdale canine officer at an arrest scene.
Jeffrey Kogan, a featured detective on the A&E channel’s police reality show “The First 48,” contends he was ostracized and demoted to road patrol after reporting he saw the dog handler unnecessarily sic the animal on a murder suspect who was in custody and no longer a threat.
Sheriff Israel, a former Fort Lauderdale police officer, is the lone defendant in the nine-page complaint filed July 12 in Broward Circuit Court. He is accused of engaging in or allowing “unlawful retribution and retaliation,” including “verbal abuse, harassment and intimidation for reporting official misconduct and participating in its investigation.”
Kogan is a 12-year BSO veteran and, according to his A&E biography, a homicide detective since 2009. His complaint says his record until now was unblemished.
On April 3, Kogan was investigating the fatal stabbing of 20-year-old Keema Gooding at a home at 3024 NW Eighth Court, in unincorporated Fort Lauderdale. A resident of the home, Walter Hart III, 19, was quickly identified as the prime suspect.
Hours later detectives developed information that Hart was possibly hiding at another residence located within Fort Lauderdale’s city limits. In standard protocol, BSO asked for the assistance of city police, the lawsuit said.
Early the next morning, police arrived and suspect Hart fled out the back door. City officers waiting in the back yard nabbed him.
When Kogan heard Hart was in custody he walked into the back yard accompanied by the unnamed Fort Lauderdale canine officer and another policeman.
The complaint filed by plaintiff’s lawyer Tonja Haddad Coleman says Kogan “observed the suspect sitting on the ground near the rear door with his hands behind his back. He was not resisting any officers or being combative in any way.”
Kogan “then witnessed the FLPD canine officer unnecessarily deploy his canine, who bit the suspect on his right arm,” the complaint says. Kogan immediately reported the incident to his direct supervisor, BSO Sgt. Dave Ellwood, another star of “The First 48”.
Attorney Coleman was not available for comment.
BSO spokeswoman Veda Coleman-Wright said, “Without going into any details regarding the pending litigation, we believe the facts will show BSO acted correctly in this matter.”
A BSO press release at the time said Hart was captured with “the assistance of a Fort Lauderdale police dog.”
Hart’s Fort Lauderdale lawyer, Sidney Fleischman, declined to discuss the extent of his client’s injuries, but did say that Hart was hospitalized because of them.
Fleischman said he was not aware until Wednesday of either the state attorney’s investigation or Kogan’s lawsuit.
Three days after Hart’s arrest, an unidentified assistant state attorney assigned to prosecute Hart for murder contacted Kogan to ask about the charge of resisting arrest that was added to the case. Kogan told him what he’d seen, touching off a probe of the canine officer by the state attorney’s public corruption unit, the complaint says.
On May 7, a Florida Department of Law Enforcement agent working with prosecutors called Kogan seeking a sworn statement. Kogan told his supervisor about the agent’s inquiry.
The next day, Captain Rafael Perez, commander of BSO’s Criminal Investigations Division, asked Kogan about the matter and then told him he would notify Sheriff Israel via the chain of command. He told Kogan to contact his union officials.
On May 30, Kogan was removed from the homicide rotation. He continued to report to work in homicide, but “was prohibited from working cases,” the complaint says.
Kogan was subpoenaed a few days later to appear before prosecutors to give a sworn statement. After that, Perez suggested to Kogan that he might want to put in a request for transfer. Kogan refused.
On June 10, Perez informed Kogan he was being transferred out of homicide. A few minutes later, BSO homicide Sgt. Steve Feeley called Kogan to get the names of the FDLE agent and the prosecutor who were investigating the dog bite incident.
Perez later advised Kogan “to let things blow over about the incident, and that if he did so, at some point in time he might be able to relocate.”
Kogan’s demotion was effective June 25th. The same day Kogan appeared in answer to the subpoena. The complaint says he “reiterated the incident involving the FLPD canine officer, and then told them all of the events regarding the adverse action taken against” him by BSO.
At the same time, the unnamed FDLE agent told Kogan “the sheriff did, in fact, call his superior at FDLE to inquire about this investigation,” the complaint says.
Kogan’s complaint suggests, but does not specifically allege, that Sheriff Israel’s coziness with his former department is behind what happened to him.
Israel “hired countless employees from the Fort Lauderdale Police Department,” the complaint says. It also notes that “several executives of Israel’s command staff” are former city officers.