Allegations of misconduct have been brought against five Gainesville police officers. Some community members say the punishments meted out will not change a problematic culture.
The Gainesville Police Department has released the results of an Internal Affairs investigation into misconduct related to the arrest of Terrell Bradley, who lost his eye on a K9 after fleeing a traffic stop this summer.
The allegations against the five officers stood, but critics questioned whether the penalties imposed could change what they called an ingrained and problematic mindset.
Three officers – Dustin Johnson, Justin Snitselaar and Maurquice Miller – received written warnings for taking photos of Bradley’s injuries on cellphones, sharing them informally and not presenting them in evidence.
The investigation also uncovered an exchange of internal messages between Constables Matthew Shott and Andrew Milman which Police Advisory Board member Fareed Johnson summed up as “boasting and gloating in an aggressive and abusive style of policing”.
As part of the trade, Shott congratulates Milman on Bradley’s injuries.
Shott: And then I heard tonight you bit someone’s eye
Milman: it was the nastiest thing ever, his eye was slit open and hanging just outside his face
Shott: I saw the photos BRAVO
Milman: Maybe if these stories get around the criminals will stop running from me
Shott: I hope not, these bedtime stories are so good
Milman: lol i was about to say that would take the fun out of this job
Shott: I’m just surprised you’re on the road and not sticking to the AI office chair
Later in the exchange, Milman said he thought the department kept giving him interns “because they know it slows me down.”
Shott: lol doesn’t seem to be slowing down too much. Something else cool is coming
Click to read the full message exchange included in the report
Officers told investigator Lt. Timothy Durst that the exchange was just a “general joke”, but both agreed that some of the messages seemed unprofessional and insensitive.
Shott and Milman received written warnings, 5-day suspensions without pay, training from the City of Gainesville’s Office of Equity and Inclusion, and 30 hours of paid community involvement while on duty. Milman was also removed from the field training program, through which he showed five new officers how to control Gainesville.
Johnson said these “light punishments” indicate “the department didn’t find anything too serious about it.”
“If their day-to-day tasks don’t change their mindset and give them compassion and empathy for people,” he said, “then community engagement won’t either.” .”
Durst conducted a review of Milman’s posts on the internal communications system between April 1 and September 12 and noted similar posts related to “city geographies and foot chases.”
To a supervisor, Milman wrote, “Besides, I’m driving east now, still here to have fun tonight.”
To another officer: “I’m going through Sugar Hill, then heading west, so we’re stopping there before it’s too late”
The officer replied, “On to 20th AVE now.”
Part of this road passes through predominantly black neighborhoods. Sugarhill and the east side of Gainesville are also predominantly black.
Milman also displayed an eagerness for foot chases in his posts.
He messaged an officer: ‘On a scale of 1 chasing on foot how badly do you want to chase someone today lol.’
As he tried to locate a suspicious woman, he wrote, “I might even be able to catch her in a foot chase lmao.”
The investigation found that Milman was often placed on “special details” to “research and enforce violations”.
The report says officers are sometimes chosen for these details based on their “willingness to be proactive and whether they have been successful in the past on special details,” other times based on their assigned geographic area. The area assigned to Milman is adjacent to areas with high reports of gun violence, according to the report.
Recent areas of interest named in the report included Sweetwater Square – where Bradley was arrested – Gardenia Gardens, Carol Estates and Carver Gardens. All are predominantly black.
Police department officials said this kind of “proactive enforcement” and police presence is needed because of reports of shootings and gun violence.
After Bradley’s run, a loaded Glock pistol with an extended magazine and extra ammunition was found in the car he was driving. This year, Gainesville police recovered an average of more than one firearm per day.
But this geo-targeting strategy also means that any misconduct disproportionately affects majority black areas.
The department calls these neighborhoods high crime, while community organizers call them underfunded. Either way, the report validates community complaints following the Bradley mutilations that black neighborhoods are policed differently and more heavily.
Bradley’s father, Victor Bradley, said this disparity in Gainesville police is not new. He noticed the same pattern when he was an officer in the mid-1990s.
Community organizer Danielle Chanzes said the report also supports community claims that the incident with Bradley was racially motivated.
“We don’t think the situation would have escalated the way it did if Terrell hadn’t been a black man,” Chanzes said. “They were looking to escalate a situation.”
The police report says Bradley put up a stop sign at an intersection where there is no stop sign. Police pointed to a Florida law that applies regardless of the presence of a stop sign.
Milman said he asked Bradley out because of indications of marijuana — for which a lawyer later told a judge he was told he had a medical card — and because he was making “stealth movements towards under the seat”, which cannot be seen in the body camera footage. Police Chief Lonnie Scott said this was due to the angle of the body camera. In the footage, Bradley often gestures with his hands in the air.
In the footage, Bradley comes out, but Milman appears to be struggling to pin his arms, and then Bradley runs.
“I was scared,” Bradley told WUFT. “I had heard of many incidents where people had just been killed by misadventure.”
When they discovered the gun and a 12-year felony conviction in Bradley’s file, they initiated a K9 search. The K9 “Ranger” maimed Bradley – then unarmed and hiding the bushes – for 46 seconds before officers disengaged him. In addition to his lost eye, Bradley suffered a spinal leak, two broken fingers and needed 12 stitches near his temple.
Bradley pleaded not guilty on Tuesday to four counts related to the leak from the stop and what they found in the car. A case management hearing is scheduled for October 25.
What the police department called proactive, some community members called it pretense, or DWB: Driving While Black.
The content of the report also echoes what Bradley’s mother, Karen Hutchinson, said she witnessed in the UF Health Shands hospital waiting room: officers showing pictures of her son’s injuries on their phones. laptops, laughing and bragging about the withdrawal – a sight she said is burned into her mind forever.
“While we need our police officers and want to support our police officers,” Johnson said, “it’s unfortunate that we have police officers who perpetuate the problems that people talk about with law enforcement.”
The City’s Office of Equity and Inclusion has not yet responded to questions about the implications of the training awarded to Milman and Shott.
A spokesperson for the police department said the goal of the training and community engagement was to increase awareness and empathy, but did not specify how success would be measured.
Chanzes said the officers haven’t really been held accountable – discipline doesn’t seem to be enough. She said no progress had been made on the demands made by protesters in July and people still wanted answers.
Since then, WUFT has reported on a lawsuit filed by a former Gainesville K9 officer alleging racial discrimination by the unit, which is expected to be heard in federal court in April.
“It just seems like this K9 unit shouldn’t really exist,” Chanzes said, and invited community members to raise their voices on partially funding or dismantling it.
Commissioner Desmon Duncan-Walker called a special City Commission meeting to discuss the police department’s K9 policy following the results of the initial internal investigation, which found no violations during the arrest of Bradley. This meeting will take place on October 12.