Officer accuses Bradenton Police chief of conducting illegal search
BRADENTON, Fla. (WWSB) - The union representing Bradenton Police officers is asking the city for an investigation of Chief Melanie Bevan after an officer filed a complaint, saying she witnessed Bevan conducting an illegal search of a home in July.
And the union president says more complaints are pending.
In a letter dated Aug. 8, Mick McHale, president of the Southwest Florida Police Benevolent Association, asks Mayor Gene Brown for the city to authorize an independent probe of the July 14 incident.
The union also asked the city to suspend Bevan pending the resolution of “an unbiased investigation of her behavior and the behavior of her internal affairs investigators conducting the ‘investigation’ into their own chief.”
McHale also told ABC7 Wednesday that this is not an isolated incident. “I assure you we will be forthcoming with at least two additional complaints possibly filed in the same manner in a very short timeframe.”
Meanwhile, the patrol officer who filed the complaint, Hannah Kalchbrenner, has resigned from the force, along with her husband -- who was also an officer in Bradenton -- and is filing an unfair labor practice suit with the state Public Employees Relations Commission.
The letter describes the July 14 incident:
Bradenton Police, along with probation officers from the Florida Department of Corrections, were serving an arrest warrant on a suspect living in the 900 block of 21st Avenue West.
Chief Bevan was present, participating in a ride-along, observing a new officer on the force who was being trained by Kalchbrenner.
Corrections officers entered the house to arrest the suspect. As Bradenton officers waited outside, Chief Bevan, without a warrant or warning, entered the house and began searching the home and contents, despite not having a search warrant.
“Other Bradenton police officers on scene were in shock and were left speechless as they watched Chief Bevan conduct an unlawful search of the home,” the letter says.
The homeowner asked Bevan if she had a warrant to search the house, and demanded Bevan leave. “Chief Bevan ignored the homeowner’s command that she leave her house, and falsely claimed that she was permitted to look around the residence given that a suspect was arrested in the home,” the letter says.
Several days later, Kalchbrenner emailed internal Affairs to report the incident. On July 22, the union says she was “ambushed” by internal affairs investigators upon her arrival at the police station, and she was “thereafter interrogated and illegally detained,” the letter charges.
“...Investigators refused to allow Kalchbrenner to have union representation or a lawyer present, and they refused to allow her to use a restroom,” and demanded she surrender her person phone for examination, the police union says.
Kalchbrenner told ABC7 Wednesday that her interrogation last nearly 90 minutes. “I started crying,” she said. “I told them I didn’t do anything wrong.”
She said after deliberating and praying about it for a few days, she and her husband, who was also an officer, decided to resign. When they arrived at the station July 31, their key cards were already deactivated and were not allowed to enter the building.
Union President Mick McHale is critical of the city police’s Internal Affairs department, saying the tactics used “would make it incredibly difficult” to conduct a proper investigation of itself, given “they report to the chief,” he told ABC7.
Bradenton Police Department spokeswoman Meredith Frameli referred requests for comment to the city. “We can’t comment on any ongoing investigation,” she told ABC7 via email.
At a City Council meeting Wednesday, Mayor Gene Brown also would not discuss the matter after City Councilman Bill Sanders pressed him on the issue.
“I’m in receipt on the letter. And there are currently active administrative investigations ... so based on these facts, I’m not at liberty to discuss it at this time. We are addressing it. There will be no more discussion until the investigation is complete,” Brown said.
Sanders said the complaint is disturbing. “You’ve got the chief of police, training an officer on what’s suppose to be the legal way to have a search and seizure, but it’s the complete opposite,” Sanders told ABC7. “There’s nothing that anyone could defend this with.”
The full text of the union letter:
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