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Columbia County Observer

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Lake City News

Lake City Police Dept Under Fire: Black/white impartiality and wrongdoing questioned

LAKE CITY, FL – The Lake City Police Department took center stage at the January 23d City Council meeting. Members of the Lake City community were upset at their perceived unequal treatment of black and white police officers. The items brought up at the meeting were all under or pending investigation or litigation. Before the meeting was called to order, the City Council was advised by its attorneys not to speak about those issues. (Photo: Chief Gilmore a few moments before the meeting was called to order)

A short time after the meeting began, Mayor Witt, an attorney, announced, "Because of pending litigation, we can't comment on certain things."

"You're keepin too much stuff hid"

Lake City resident Myron Carter came to the microphone:

My complaint is we got a Police Chief to run the Police Department. I understand her job is to run the Police Department. The City Manager don't have a right to take action with the Police Department... You're keepin too much stufff hid... It's too much stuff being hid in the Police Department and I want to know why.

Mayor Witt responded, "It is not to keep anything from the public. It's just until things get completed."

Mr. Carter asked, "The Police Chief, she's running the Police Department, right? How could the City Manager come in and suspend somebody when you got a Police Chief?

Mayor Witt answered, "I'm not going to comment on any personnel issues."

Ex Lake City Police Captain, Rudolph Davis came to the microphone. Mr. Davis served on the Lake City Police Department for 19 1/2 years.

In 2009 after six weeks on the job, Chief Gilmore asked for Mr. Davis' resignation. When he refused to resign, he was terminated without cause.

Mr. Davis is suing the City in federal court, along with many others.

Links:
Listen to Mr. Davis' remarks.(edited)
Transcript of Mr. Davis' remarks. (complete)

When the going gets rough, Lake City remains a "market place of ideas."

The practice of Lake City is to allow all its meetings to be a "marketplace of ideas," a practice on which Mayor Witt and the City Council never waiver, even when the going gets rough.

The Sheriff's Office had an emissary in the audience to take note and report back to the Sheriff.

Mr. Davis, a mountain of a man, approached the microphone. The City Council sat stone-faced. The usually animated City Manager didn't move a muscle. Police Chief Gilmore leaned forward and the City's labor counsel picked up her pen.

"There are many good employees, but..."

Mr. Davis began matter-of-factly, showing no emotion during his five minute presentation.

"Good evening Mayor, Councilmen and Councilwoman. I'm not a adversary to the Lake City Police Department, but someone has to take this community best interest at heart. This community supports Councilman Hill analysis about the disparity in discipline that is being imposed between black and white employees at the Lake City Police Department."
"The Chief of Police and the City Manager has not only unfairly terminated black officers, but they are also mistreating white officers, and they are also standin by while members of this community is bein mistreated... There are many good employees at the Lake City Police Department, but there are a few not being held accountable for their actions."

Mr. Davis went through a list of his observations that he told the Observer was created, "Through research, public record requests, personal interviews and observation."

As he went through the list no one batted an eye. The room was stone silent.

He concluded his list with remarks about veteran LCPD officer, Captain John Blanchard.

Mr. Davis said, "Captain Blanchard allegedly embezzled a large sum of money from an elderly woman in this community, but yet he was asked to resign."

Epilogue

Mr. Davis concluded his presentation this way: "At the end of the day, the City Manager and the Police Chief will leave the City of Lake City, return to their hometowns, leaving the City of Lake City financially broken... Thank you for listening to my concerns and [may all of you allow] God to direct your steps."

At 04:45 today, the Observer spoke with long time City Councilman George Ward. Councilman Ward wouldn't talk about any specifics regarding any particular case.

Councilman Ward told the Observer, "It is my aim and I am sure it is the aim of the other Council Members to make sure there is never a question about anything that goes on with the Lake City Police Department regarding any wrong doing. "

This work by the Columbia County Observer is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial 3.0 United States License.

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