Police in the Fort Lauderdale, Fl., suburb of Sunrise are weighing whether to charge a sergeant with a felony, not for excessive force or off-the-job misconduct— but for spilling confidential information to the news media, reports the Sun-Sentinel.
The investigation became public in September, when police executed search warrants suspecting Sgt. Roger Krege of providing the South Florida Sun Sentinel in 2014 with, among other things, a list of confidential informants used in dozens of drug cases.
“That is not something you see often,” said Jim Mulvaney, an adjunct professor in the law and police science department at the John Jay College of Criminal Justice in New York, specializing in law and police science.
“Internal affairs investigations are fairly common, but leaks don’t usually trigger criminal investigations.”
The timing coincides with a Sun Sentinel investigation called “Cops, Cash and Cocaine,” which outlined how the police department used confidential informants to lure drug buyers into the city. Once the arrests were made, police were able to seize the buyers’ money and often their vehicles, resulting in huge paydays for the officers working overtime and for the informants.
The article showed the newspaper knew the location of the department’s “Vice, Intelligence and Narcotics” unit, which forced Sunrise to move the office. The article did not disclose the name of any confidential informant.
Sunrise Lt. Brian Katz said the leak was taken seriously because it put other members of the force in danger.
“The exposure and illegal copying of the (list) put every confidential informant in grave danger and threatened the personal safety of every detective working in the Vice, Intelligence and Narcotics unit and working with the confidential informants,” said Katz.
In Florida, the charge of “disclosure or use of confidential criminal justice information” is a third-degree felony, punishable by a maximum of five years in prison. The law was passed in 2003.