Bradenton OK independent investigation of police chief, department

Bradenton City Councilman Bill Sanders speaks at a council meeting Aug. 24.
Bradenton City Councilman Bill Sanders speaks at a council meeting Aug. 24.(City of Bradenton)
Published: Aug. 25, 2022 at 3:52 PM EDT
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SARASOTA, Fla. (WWSB) - The Bradenton City Council has approved authorizing an independent investigation of city Police Chief Melanie Bevan and her top commanders in the wake of allegations of misconduct by at least four current and former officers.

In 4-1 vote, the Council OK’d Mayor Gene Brown’s plan to ask North Port Police Capt. Brian Gregory and retired Hillsborough County Judge Greg P. Holder to conduct the investigation.

The union representing the police department’s rank-and-file officers has been demanding an independent probe for months, after a survey done in March painted a picture of internal division, distrust and disenchantment.

In August, the union announced it had filed an unfair labor practice complaint with the state Public Employees Relations Commission on behalf of former officer Hannah Kalchbrenner, who said she was harassed by the department’s Internal Affairs investigators after she reported she witnessed Bevan conducting a search of a home in July without a warrant.

The union then released sworn affidavits by three other officers, including a senior lieutenant and a veteran sergeant, accusing Bevan and other top officers of suggesting that detectives harass a suspect in order to crack a 20-year-old cold case.

Bevan is also accused of conspiring to steal a personal cell phone to cover up an affair between a senior officer and a married dispatcher who took her own life after the affair came to light.

In Wednesday’s City Council meeting, Ward 4 Councilman Bill Sanders, a vocal critic of the police department, was unsatisfied with the choice of investigators. Capt. Brian Gregory runs the internal affairs department within the North Port Police Department.

“Local politics (have) proved not to do this correctly,” Sanders said. “Now you have a neighboring chief of police that’s friends with our chief of police. This is suspect,” he argued.

“Why you wouldn’t let a government agency that oversees police departments like the FBI or FDLE (Florida Department of Law Enforcement) ... I’ve been told they would be glad to look at this and keep it out of the purview of local people of neighboring cities,” he said.

Councilman Patrick Roff, who represents Ward 3, also said the FDLE would have been his first choice. “Can we ask FDLE first? To see if they’d be willing to take it?” he asked. “I would be OK with this if we would ask FDLE first.”

However, Councilwoman Jayne Kocher of Ward 1 refused to amend her motion to allow the inquiry to the FDLE.

The motion to have Gregory and Holder passed 4-1, with Sanders dissenting.