Polk drug agents play Wii during raid

Polk drug agents play Wii during raid

This is a discussion on Polk drug agents play Wii during raid within the In the News: The Good, the Bad and the Ugly forums, part of the The Back Porch category; Polk undercover drug investigators play Wii during raid With guns drawn and flashlights cutting through darkened rooms, Polk County undercover drug investigators stormed the home ...

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Thread: Polk drug agents play Wii during raid

  1. #1
    Distinguished Member Array pcon's Avatar
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    Polk drug agents play Wii during raid

    Polk undercover drug investigators play Wii during raid

    With guns drawn and flashlights cutting through darkened rooms, Polk County undercover drug investigators stormed the home of convicted drug dealer Michael Difalco near Lakeland in March.

    As investigators searched the home for drugs, some drug task force members found other ways to occupy their time. Within 20 minutes of entering Difalco's house, some of the investigators found a Wii video bowling game and began bowling frame after frame.

    While some detectives hauled out evidence such as flat screen televisions and shotguns, others threw strikes, gutter balls and worked on picking up spares.

    A Polk County sheriff's detective cataloging evidence repeatedly put down her work and picked up a Wii remote to bowl. When she hit two strikes in a row, she raised her arms above her head, jumping and kicking.

    While a female detective lifted a nearby couch looking for evidence, another sheriff's detective focused on pin action.

    But detectives with the Polk County Sheriff's Office, the Auburndale, Lakeland and Winter Haven police departments did not know that a wireless security camera connected to a computer inside Difalco's home was recording their activity.

    The recording obtained by News Channel 8 showed several members of the county's High Intensity Drug Trafficking Area (HIDTA) task force entering the house shortly after 8 a.m. According to the search warrant, their mission was to search for drugs, stolen property and the fruits of any illegal drug activity.

    Now there are questions on how the impromptu bowling tournament might affect the case against Difalco.

    Polk County Sheriff Grady Judd denies it will have any effect.

    "That absolutely is not true; that doesn't invalidate the search at all," Judd said. "Now the defendant would like for it to invalidate the search, but unfortunately for him, it won't."

    Judd, who watched the video during an interview last week, called the situation an embarrassment.

    "I'm not pleased that they played that Wii bowling game," Judd said. The sheriff's office oversees the drug task force. Judd said he initiated an internal administrative investigation of the incident.

    "That is not appropriate conduct at a search warrant," he said. "But I am less pleased with the supervision that didn't walk in and say, turn that off. That's what supervision should have done."

    Task force members played the video game at various times during the day, for a total of a little over an hour of playing time. The competition proved to be quite competitive at times. A task force supervisor from the Lakeland Police Department, gun at his side, pumped his fist after picking up a strike on the first ball he threw. The video showed he continued bowling frame after frame, competing with another undercover detective.

    "Obviously, this is not the kind of behavior we condone," Lakeland Police Chief Roger Boatner said. "There was a lot of down time, but that does not excuse the fact that we should act as the consummate professionals."

    "Certainly this was a case of bad judgment," Auburndale Police Chief Nolan McLeod said. "We will handle it appropriately."

    Winter Haven police Sgt. Brad Coleman said Chief E.C. Waters had not viewed the video. "If there is any indication that someone did something inappropriately, we will do something about it," Coleman said.

    Court records show detectives placed Difalco's home under surveillance as far back as December 2008.

    "We knew he had weapons," Judd said. "He's a bad guy."

    His history includes an extensive arrest record dating back to 1995. Difalco, 43, served three years in state prison from 2002 to 2005 for trafficking drugs, owning and operating a chop shop, and grand theft.

    In what Judd called "brilliant police work," the task force placed Difalco under surveillance and took him into custody, away from his home and weapons, during the early morning hours of March 6, in the parking lot of a Circle K convenience store on Highway 98.

    Documents filed with the court say, in the March raid, detectives removed methamphetamine, marijuana, drug paraphernalia, weapons and more than $30,000 in stolen property.

    The 11 charges against Difalco include trafficking methamphetamine, possession of a firearm by a convicted felon and operating a chop shop.

    According to sheriff's office records, 13 detectives and three sergeants spent nine hours searching Difalco's property, for drugs, stolen property and signs of any illegal drug activity.

    The raid cost taxpayers more than $4,000.

    Judd, Boatner and McLeod agree the bowling was inappropriate. But they challenge the notion that taxpayer dollars were wasted.

    "It was an expansive scene, a lot of searching to be done, a lot of waiting," Boatner said.

    "The nature of a search warrant is hurry up and wait," Judd said. "Am I trying to defend the fact that they were bowling, not at all. That was inappropriate."

    Not just inappropriate, but Tampa defense attorney Rick Escobar would argue the moment detectives turned on that video game and effectively seized it, they turned the search warrant into an illegal search.

    "I've never seen anything like this," Escobar said after he viewed some of the video. Escobar does not represent Difalco and has no connection to the case.

    "All the citizens are thinking, 'Wait a minute, we are paying these people to go out and protect us and here they are playing bowling on our time,' " he said.

    "The real question here is have they seized property that wasn't described in the search warrant?" Escobar asked. "Clearly if they're using it, they've seized it and for totally improper purposes, because it's for entertainment. Investigations are not for entertainment."

    Difalco's attorney declined comment.

    Chip Tulberry, a spokesperson for the Polk County State Attorney, declined to comment on the video, or the validity of the search warrant.

    "That's a discussion that will occur in court," he said.
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  2. #2
    Member Array BaserRonin's Avatar
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    ""We knew he had weapons," Judd said. "He's a bad guy.""

    That was a standalone sentence. He may be a bad guy, but they once again directly linked being a bad guy to owning a weapon.

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    Distinguished Member Array pcon's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by BaserRonin View Post
    ""We knew he had weapons," Judd said. "He's a bad guy.""

    That was a standalone sentence. He may be a bad guy, but they once again directly linked being a bad guy to owning a weapon.
    Yeah, I picked up on that too.
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    Wow. So totally, completely, and utterly wrong. EVERYONE knows that you play Rock Band on search warrants...
    A man fires a rifle for many years, and he goes to war. And afterward he turns the rifle in at the armory, and he believes he's finished with the rifle. But no matter what else he might do with his hands - love a woman, build a house, change his son's diaper - his hands remember the rifle.

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    Sheriff Grady Judd is one tough guy. I wouldn't want to be those cops. Obviously, Polk county has too much tax money when the cops have nothing to do on raids. So when you folks in Lakeland have a tax increase on the table........you know how to vote.

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    Member Array i10casual's Avatar
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    Yeah, that Wii is addicting.

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    Every occupation has its "true professionals"...
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    Quote Originally Posted by BaserRonin View Post
    ""We knew he had weapons," Judd said. "He's a bad guy.""

    That was a standalone sentence. He may be a bad guy, but they once again directly linked being a bad guy to owning a weapon.
    I hope that statement was made based on the knowledge that he was already a convicted drug dealer. Either that or a case of verbal diarrhea.
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    That would make a good Wii commercial.

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    Quote Originally Posted by xsigma40cal View Post
    That would make a good Wii commercial.
    I can see it now a police raid,everyone on the ground cuff em up...what did we do,you did nothing we just wanta play with your Wii
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    They played with the BG's Wii... so what?
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    Sheriff Judd probably did not mean they were bad guys because they had weapons. He's always seemed to be pro-ccw.

    I suspect he meant that being the bad guys they were, they unlawfully had weapons to protect their criminal enterprise.

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    Funny. Its not exactly the right thing to do, but it is kind of funny.
    It has nothing to do with money, or having to much personnel on the assignment. Anybody who has participated in a search warrant knows that there is a lot of hurry up and wait. Its not because of over staffing, but because of legal restrictions and bureaucratic requirements imposed by a legal system designed to protect the citizen.
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    VIP Member Array farronwolf's Avatar
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    It is kind of funny.

    However, it won't be very funny if anything gets thrown out as a result of a claim that they illegally seized property. It also isn't very funny if the 9 hours statement is true as far as the time spent on the wii.

    Substitute the wii for say an automobile. If the leo's were out doing donuts in a hot rod or jacked up 4x4 running through a mud pit as a result of the raid, it probably would be alot less funny to the department and the taxpayers.
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    But there is a very clear difference between joyriding in a vehicle vs. playing video games. The vehicle would be a depreciable asset, where the video game is not. They are causing no damage by playing video games.
    Don't get me wrong, I'm not defend the actions of the LEO's, but I am trying to put the situation into realistic perspective.
    "Just blame Sixto"

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