Here’s something entirely too rare, a police officer being prosecuted and convicted for lying on a police report. And he was caught, unsurprisingly, because surveillance video showed that the report he filed explaining why he arrested someone was, shall we say, a rather creative rendering of what actually happened.
When Broward Sheriff’s deputies David Wimberley and Brian Swadkins arrested Troy Baldeo at a 7-Eleven in Tamarac in 2010, Wimberley turned in two reports that described the suspect using words like “boisterous,” “yelling” and “clenched fists.”
But a video of their confrontation bore so little resemblance to that description that prosecutors dropped the case against Baldeo and decided instead to file charges against Wimberley and Swadkins.
A jury on Friday found Wimberley guilty of two misdemeanors for falsifying his reports. A married father with five years of service as a Broward deputy, Wimberley faces a jail term of nearly two years when he is sentenced June 15. Until then, Broward Circuit Judge Ilona Holmes allowed him to remain free.
Assistant State Attorney Adriana Alcalde-Padron began her closing argument Friday without a sound, playing the video that showed Baldeo standing near the coffee machine at the 7-Eleven on 7901 West Commercial Blvd. and taking a sip before being approached by Wimberley. Less than a minute later, Baldeo was on the floor, taken down by Swadkins and facing criminal charges.
“If a picture is worth a thousand words, a video, this video, is worth a million,” Alcalde-Padron said when the tape stopped playing. “Protecting and serving the people of Broward County? News flash: Troy Baldeo is one of the people of Broward County.”
First of all, kudos to the prosecutor for bringing the case in the first place. That’s not unheard of, but it’s rare enough to be notable. Now we’ll see if the judge will actually hand down a real sentence, one that will make other officers think twice before doing the same thing. And whether this, on top of the hundreds of other cases where video evidence has shown police officers lying on reports, will spur more people to support the right to record the police when they’re confronting a suspect.
But my guess, based on years of reporting on these issues, is that he’ll get a relatively light sentence. And if he’s fired by the department — that’s hardly a given, and it’s likely that the union will fight for him to keep his job even though he was convicted — don’t be at all surprised to find out in a few years that he went to work for another police department somewhere.