tampabay.com

Rocky past, uncertain future

The interim police chief expects to take action on Officer Terry Elliott by next week.

By JOHN FRANK and BARBARA BEHRENDT
Published May 23, 2007


BROOKSVILLE -- Police Officer Terry Elliott's rap sheet reads much like those of the suspects he arrests: harassment, lying to police, failing to appear in court and verbal abuse.

And those are just the infractions within the past six months. Internal documents released Tuesday by the Brooksville Police Department show a more troubling pattern of misconduct.

Since joining the force in August 2002, Elliott has run afoul of department standards more than a dozen times. He has been suspended three times; twice, supervisors recommended firing him. It is unclear in the records why then-police Chief Ed Tincher did not act on those recommendations.

Interim police Chief Frank Ross recently told Elliott that he has seen enough. In a letter sent May 15, Ross laid out the reasons for taking disciplinary action, noting Elliott's rocky performance but also his four commendations.

Ross would not discuss the details of the investigation but said he expects to make a decision about Elliott's future with the Police Department by next week.

Elliott, a squad leader who was once a Tampa police officer, did not return calls seeking comment Tuesday. But he defended his record in a conference Monday with Ross.

The officer's troubles are just the latest example of personnel turmoil that has roiled the halls of Brooksville city government. More than 200 pages of documents obtained by the St. Petersburg Times show that Elliott's questionable interactions with current and former city employees make him an integral but covert player in some recent controversies.

Elliott's involvement in the saga with embattled former police Chief Ed Tincher prompted the most prominent internal investigation into the officer's conduct.

Behind the scenes, the records show, Elliott did the bidding of former human resources director Ron Baker as Baker battled the Police Department that arrested him months earlier for giving Xanax to a co-worker.

Elliott made numerous attempts to get a former police detective to sign an affidavit that would have attacked Lt. Richard Hankins, Tincher's second in command. An attorney for the former detective sent a letter to the Police Department complaining of harassment, but Elliott said he called him only a few times.

Other investigations into Elliott's conduct in the past six months include accusations that the officer:

In interviews with internal investigators, Elliott denied disclosing the internal affairs information and acknowledged passing on documents to the city official.

He also told supervisors he didn't call the dispatcher names; a recording device in a police car, however, recorded his comments.

John Frank can be reached at jfrank@sptimes.com or (352) 754-6114.