Marco Island 'Brady cop' removed from police force, offered civilian employment
A Marco Island police officer who the state attorney's office refuses to call as a witness in criminal trials due to concerns about his credibility has been removed as member of the police force due to his inability to perform the duties of the job.
While he did not explicitly call it a termination, City Manager David Harden said Wednesday that officer Tige Thompson was being removed from his position as a police officer and is eligible to move to a civilian position, if and when a position is available.
"Community taxpayers deserve functioning department officers able to perform all the requirements of their position," Harden wrote in a letter to Thompson Wednesday. "It is without dispute that you cannot serve as a witness for the SAO and, therefore, you cannot meet the minimum qualifications for the position ... It would be a dereliction of my duty to allow you to remain employed as a police officer."
Harden placed Thompson on paid administrative leave Feb. 19 as the city evaluated his employment status due to questions of whether he could fulfill the duties outlined in the city's job description for police officers.
Harden said the paid leave will expire on Friday, marking 88 days he has received wages despite not being on the job. Moving forward, Thompson will only receive wages once he accepts and starts a new position.
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Thompson’s employment came under review after the Marco Eagle reported that the state attorney’s office declined to prosecute charges in a high-profile case due to Thompson’s involvement.
Thompson responded to the scene of the incident where a man barricaded himself in his home with a cache of firearms, prompting a standoff and SWAT to respond.
Further analysis revealed that none of Thompson’s arrests have gone to trial in several years since the state attorney’s office determined it could no longer utilize him as a witness, effectively placing him on what is known as a “Brady List.”
The Brady List moniker originated as a result of the Supreme Court's decision in the 1963 case Brady v. Maryland, which established that prosecutors were required to turn over exculpatory evidence to the defense, including any evidence that could impeach a witness.
The state attorney's office had determined it could no longer use Thompson after he was found to have given inconsistent and untruthful testimony as part of a 2011 DUI case where it eventually had to drop the charges.
The state attorney's office also cited Thompson's previous termination from the Collier County Sheriff's Office in 2004 as part of its rationale.
At that time, Thompson was found to have taken indecent photos of women baring their breasts during the Great Dock Canoe Races and then trying to cover it up. He was also found to have been untruthful during the preliminary investigation.
Despite concerns from the state attorney’s office, Thompson remained with the department and was reassigned to investigations following the issuance of a letter in 2013 from the state attorney's office expressing its position on Thompson.
After a follow-up letter was sent to the police department in 2015, Police Chief Al Schettino returned Thompson to patrol due to the belief that Thompson would tarnish all cases he investigated.
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In June 2015, an internal affairs investigation was launched into Thompson's previous actions and determined that he has violated multiple police policies. However, because the investigation spanned more than 180 days, the department could not impose any discipline due to state law.
A copy of the internal affairs report was forwarded to the Florida Department of Law Enforcement, which launched its own perjury investigation. Due to the age of the case and evidentiary issues, FDLE no caused the case.
After Thompson was placed on administrative leave in February, Harden instructed Schettino to assess Thompson’s fitness for duty given his inclusion on the Brady List.
In a memo to Thompson, Schettino recommended his disqualification, citing the ability to testify as an integral part of his duties.
During a pre-determination meeting in March, Thompson's legal counsel had asked for time to request the state attorney's office reconsider its decision.
Last month, however, the state attorney's office said in an email to the Marco Eagle that it had not changed its stance.
Schettino's memo to Thompson served as a 180-degree turn by the city as the same rationale to remove Thompson now could have been used several years ago when it was determined he could not be used as a witness.
In a letter sent to Thompson's legal counsel Wednesday, Harden acknowledged that fact but indicated it would have no bearing on the final decision.
"Though I am not able to ascertain the rationale of prior city administrations, allowing you to continue working without meeting the qualifications contravenes personnel rules," Harden wrote. "However, the decision of prior administrations will not be an albatross relative to my decision-making. If an employee is unable to meet the job requirements, he/she cannot work in that position."
In the time he was been on paid leave, Thompson has earned more than $15,000 despite not being required to come to work.