FDLE to take look at Port Richey PD after 10Investigates report

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PORT RICHEY, Florida - Meeting for the first time Tuesday night since 10Investigates exposed problems inside the city's police department, including possible illegal activity, Port Richey city councilmembers and citizens alike lashed out at WTSP over treatment of their police department. 

But council also voted, 4-0, to ask the Florida Department of Law Enforcement (FDLE) to investigate the problems, which included disappearing discipline records from officers' personnel files.

"Call (FDLE) in, because I don't think we have anything to hide," said councilwoman Jennie Sorrell, who was among the first officials to criticize the 10Investigates story, even before she had seen it.

"We have to protect our police department, (but) we also have to protect our victims," said councilwoman Nancy Britton, urging the outside investigation because it was important to know what happened to sustained citizen complaints against certain officers.

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10Investigates also identified how Police Chief Jerry DeCanio says he shredded a discipline record of his former partner by mistake, and how the city's HR department didn't have some of the discipline-related files it should have preserved.

And over the course of the more than three months since the issues were brought to the chief's attention, no official investigation had been launched internally, and the department was able to provide few answers into how the records went missing.

The official motion Tuesday night for an FDLE investigation, made by Sorrell, was to request the agency investigate "this Channel 10 hearsay."
 
Sorrell's comments, which also included a promise to investigate - and disprove - the 10News report, were popular among the pro-DeCanio crowd.  Several citizens also spoke before council to discredit the report and reporter.

"Mr. Fake News - is he going to report the story when the truth comes out?" one citizen asked rhetorically.
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Another citizen confronted the reporter afterward outside the meeting with expletives.

Councilman Terry Rowe, who suggested the story was "fake news" before he had even read it two weeks ago, also criticized 10Investigates for asking councilmembers questions at their homes when they ignored written interview requests or canceled already-scheduled interviews.

City Manager Vince Lupo said he would send a letter Wednesday officially requesting the investigation from FDLE, which confirmed to 10Investigates it had already received at least one similar request from a citizen following the report's broadcast.

FDLE previously looked into the Port Richey Police Department in 2014, following a scandal involving a local tow truck company providing benefits to local offiers that violated department rules.  Four officers were disciplined, but no criminal activity was found.

10Investigates will continue to provide updates on the newest FDLE request.

Find 10Investigates' Noah Pransky on Facebook or follow his updates on Twitter. Send your story tips confidentially to npransky@wtsp.com.