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Monday, August 30, 2010

[FL] High Springs police officer Michelle Jones finds another way to stand up for herself as a victim of domestic violence

...The complaint [High Springs police officer Michelle Jones] filed last year was in objection to actions taken by [Chief of Police Jim] Troiano regarding an incident of domestic violence that took place in Gilchrist County between Michelle and her brother...

Officer's husband wants answers
Alachua County Today
Glenn Coine
Sunday, 29 August 2010

It’s been over a year since High Springs police officer Michelle Jones, formerly Michelle Kemp, filed a formal written complaint against Chief of Police Jim Troiano.

The file for the Aug. 3, 2009 complaint is still open, and any investigation that was initiated has yet to be officially closed.

Alachua County Sheriff’s Deputy Brandon Jones, Michelle’s husband, explained that because her complaint is still active and open, she is not at liberty to discuss the issue, which is why he spoke on his wife’s behalf at an Aug. 12 city commission meeting.

When the commission opened the floor for citizen comments pertaining to items not on the agenda, Brandon Jones came forward, explaining wanted to make the commission aware of the lack of adequate action taken about his wife’s complaint.

Mayor Bill Coughlin and City Manager Jim Drumm urged Jones to hold off on addressing the commission with all the details, asking him first to meet with Drumm to discuss the matter.

Jones wanted to ensure that everything said, both by him and by Drumm, would be subject to public record, and he agreed to meet with Drumm the following Wednesday, Aug. 18, on the condition that he may record the conversation.

Incident happened in Gilchrist County

During the Wednesday meeting, Jones elaborated on the details of his and his wife’s concerns.

The complaint she filed last year was in objection to actions taken by Troiano regarding an incident of domestic violence that took place in Gilchrist County between Michelle and her brother.

According to Brandon Jones, after being the victim in an altercation with her brother, Michelle Jones notified the chief of the incident out of professional courtesy and honesty because she had nothing to hide.

When she informed Troiano of the incident, he requested that she provide him with a brief memo to be placed in her personnel file.

Subsequently, he also placed a copy of the sheriff’s report from the incident in her file.

Her complaint protests the necessity of this action, since she claims she was the victim and not the aggressor in the altercation.

Additionally, the complaint addresses a statement the chief made while under oath during a July 7, 2009 interview that was part of an investigation pertaining to an unrelated sexual harassment complaint against him, and the comments he made to a local media outlet when answering questions about the results of an anonymous survey done by the Police Benevolent Association, Jones said.

Victim or Aggressor?

The concern, he explained, was that Troiano was discussing an issue directly pertaining to a separate open investigation, and second, that Michelle was at some point believed to have been the primary aggressor, rather than her brother.

Jones said there was never any reason to believe his wife was anything but the victim, and he said the police report from the incident supports that.

It is misleading and defamatory, he explained, to say she "threw the first punch." There is a big difference between putting ones’ hands out to push someone away in self-defense, and thus making the first physical contact, as Michelle did, and "throwing the first punch," he said.

The incident report, which is a public record maintained by Gilchrist County, names her brother as the primary aggressor.

According to an audio recording of the interview in question provided by the city, Troiano said "Michelle Kemp was involved in a domestic disturbance with her brother. She was at one time the primary aggressor, and was going to be arrested and charged by the Gilchrist County Sheriff’s Office, according to her. She later told me after her mother testified that she became the lesser of the two and became the victim."

He went on to say, "There are policies and procedures that require that we document that. My purpose of getting that memorandum was to follow this because she used force, she punched her brother…bottom line is she’s the victim."

He then said, "But I asked for that documentation, and I also obtained a copy of the arrest report and the police report…I feel that we have a responsibility to protect our officers."

Jones said his wife was never actually a suspect, but she might have mentioned to Troiano that during a phone conversation directly following the incident, the Gilchrist County sheriff involved told her jokingly that she was lucky her mother was there to attest to her innocence.

The chief pointed out that he never used her name when responding to a request by a local media outlet, and he stands by his statement that she was the first to use force no matter how you look at it.

This is why, he continued, he had a responsibility to keep a record of the incident. He did so, he said, with the interest of protecting his officer, should she later be accused of questionable actions. He said because he kept the report on file he would then easily be able to defend her and prove her innocence.

Troiano said he wanted to make it clear that he does not, nor did he ever, have any intention of targeting any employee or of maligning an employee to the media.

Deputy Jones said his primary purpose in bringing the issue to the city commission and then in meeting with Drumm, is to ensure that an investigation will be re-initiated, and following the conclusion of the investigation, the complaint will be officially closed.

Jones questions policy

One of the questions he asked Drumm was regarding another High Springs police officer who was involved as a suspect in a domestic violence call at his home within the city limits. Jones asked Drumm why nothing was placed in this officer’s file, given the circumstances, but the documents from Michelle’s incident were included.

Jones said he felt Drumm did not give a clear response to this inquiry. However, Troiano spoke to the issue, stating that in the other case, there was never any physical contact made by either party. It was only a verbal domestic dispute, and no arrests were made, but specifically because there was no issue of physical force being used, it did not require the same documentation.

Drumm did, however, state that he had now removed the documents pertaining to the incident between Michelle and her brother from her file.

He also said there would be a new investigation made regarding the complaint, but there may be some delay caused by the process of selecting an independent agent to investigate.

Before the Wednesday meeting, Drumm said that part of what may have caused the delay in completing the original investigation was the fact that it was handled by the Bunnell Police Department at the request of the City of High Springs. Upon reporting back to Drumm, the investigator indicated that the findings did not warrant any further investigation.

Drumm said he wants to be overly cautious and ensure that everyone is treated fairly.

This was why he came to the commission, said Jones, to request that the city complete the investigation properly and to its fullest ability.

Troiano said he welcomes this and any investigation, because he knows he has done nothing wrong.

At this point, Drumm emphasized that the new investigation will not explore the question of whether the incident report should have been placed in Jones’ file, as it has since been removed. This investigation, Drumm said, will address two things: "what he [Troiano] said, and was he purposefully untruthful."
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