Police Perjury: How They Roll in Hollywood, Florida

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In Chicago, it’s called “creative writing”; in Dallas, it’s been referred to as the practice of occasionally telling a “noble lie”; and in Hollywood, Florida, it’s known as “doing a little Walt Disney.”

All of those expressions refer to perjury committed by police in official reports. The latest example, courtesy of the South Florida Sun-Sentinel, was captured by the dash-cam in a Hollywood PD cruiser following a collision with a drunk driver last February.

After Officer Joel Francisco rear-ended a vehicle driven by Alexandra Gabriela Torrensvilas, Officer Dewey Pressley, a 21-year veteran, promised to falsify a report in order to protect his fellow police officer. Torrensvilas was drunk, but the accident was apparently Officer Francisco’s fault.

The qualifier “apparently” is necessary here because the official report is, by the admission of its author, a work of fiction — albeit one that led to Torrensvilas being charged with four counts of drunk driving and receiving a citation for an improper lane change.

As submitted by Officer Pressley, who made the arrest, Torrensvilas claimed to have been driving while carrying a large cat — one roughly the size of a small child — on her lap. She supposedly blurted, “It just jumped out!” after being stopped by the police.

Officer Francisco, per this invented narrative, was distracted by the cat, thinking that it might be a pedestrian. This momentary distraction, not Francisco’s carelessness, was responsible for the collision.

“I don’t want to make things up, ever, because it’s wrong, but if I need to bend it a little to protect a cop, I’m gonna,” explained Officer Pressley during a profanity-strewn conversation captured on video. “We’ll do a little Walt Disney to protect the cop because it wouldn’t have mattered because she is drunk anyway.”

In fact, the responsibility for the collision — which is what caused the only actual damage to persons or property in this incident — matters a great deal, both in terms of the severity of the punishment handed out to Torrensvilas and the professional standing of Officer Francisco.

The priorities on display in this incident are regrettably typical of contemporary police culture. For too many police officers the highest priority is protecting each other from accountability and serving themselves.

10:40 am on July 29, 2009
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