Retaliation Experienced

The following describes the retaliation that I experienced from City of Tampa personnel, listed in chronologic order.

police squad car

Buzzing my house at night with the police helicopterWhen I submitted my complaint to the Commission on Accreditation of Law Enforcement Agencies (CALEA), they said it would be immediately forwarded to Tampa’s police chief, and then asked whether I wanted to do so, hinting retaliation would follow.  A few days later, a helicopter was flying over my house around 1:30 a.m., flying low and directly overhead.  It did this five or six times and then left.  It returned 20 minutes later and again made repeated overhead swipes.  I have a large skylight in my living room and saw the helicopter with the spotlight lit as it flew over the skylight.  There was obviously no police business that necessitated flying over my house.  When it returned again, I stood under the skylight, looking upward with arms crossed, shaking my head.  The blinding light hovered directly overhead.  It departed and did not return.  I assume this was an attempt at intimidation.

Tampering with my water meter to increase my water bill.  Twice, a City of Tampa water department employee tampered with my water meter, both times resulting in large water bills.  Months prior to my lawsuit, I saw a City worker using a flat tool in my water meter box.  My next bill had an extra $500 for supposed excess water usage.  The second time, I saw the same man similarly engaged at my water meter box.  I told him I knew what he was doing and that I would videotape him, if he continued.  He closed the box, ran to his City of Tampa truck, and drove away.  My next water bill had an extra $400 in water usage expense.  I observed another City employee doing something in my water meter box and questioned her, taking her contact information.  She must have tampered in the wrong direction, as my next bill had negative water usage. 

Conducting traffic stops in front of my house.  I live on a quiet street that extends only two blocks and has minimal traffic.  Around the time I filed my lawsuit, a Tampa police officer told me that they had been informed about me.  Then, Tampa police officers began writing traffic tickets directly in front of my house, often filling the front rooms with the swirl of police lights.  They never stopped cars in front of my neighbors’ houses; only in front of my house.  One time, my husband and I were in the front yard when the officer stopped a car.  He looked at us and was laughing profusely, as he apparently thought he had stopped my son, as the car was similar.  Once he retrieved the driver’s license and learned it was not my son, he stopped laughing and became sheepish.  The traffic stops in front of my house stopped, once local newspapers reported my lawsuit was attempting to ban Tampa’s traffic ticket quotas – a change many officers wanted.

Failing to report and properly investigate a theft at my house, despite the thief being known.  About a month after Judge Merryday’s final ruling in 2007, sheriff deputies arrested a man as he attempted to cash a forged check from my account.  The man was accompanied by a new maid from the maid service we used.  The deputies instructed me to notify the bank—which concluded three checks had been stolen—and report the stolen checks to the Tampa police since the theft occurred in the City limits.  A Tampa police patrol officer came to my house and wrote a police report on the stolen checks.  A few days later, we learned that one of the checks had already been cashed by the same man for $240.  Also, we found a credit card was stolen and used for nearly $1000 in purchases, and jewelry worth more than $500 was missing.  A sheriff’s deputy told me this was an easy case for the Tampa police to solve.  The man was still in jail, such that the police could easily charge him with the cashed check.  The credit card purchases occurred at a Wal-Mart, which the deputy said had excellent surveillance video, making it possible to observe who used the credit card.  Further, the deputy said they arrested the maid for stealing from another house and pawning the stolen goods.  They affirmed that the maid had also pawned jewelry in the evening after she had been in my house, and they gave the pawn shop information to the Tampa Police Department.  The deputy said the Tampa police should get a description of my missing jewelry and go to the pawn shop to see if it was pawned there.  My case was assigned to Tampa police Det. Sean Davis and he called me.  I gave him the information about the cashed check, stolen credit card and missing jewelry.  He made it quite clear that he intended to do nothing, which is what he did.  He did not report the cashed check, stolen credit card purchases or missing jewelry, much less investigate.  The patrol officer’s report on the three stolen checks concludes with Det. Davis writing that he called the maid and she did not call back – case closed.  A Tampa city councilman later demanded an explanation from the police.  Both a Tampa police sergeant and major contacted me to apologize, but said it was too late to report or investigate the crime.  They let the maid and her accomplice keep everything.  Retired Tampa Police Captain Marion Lewis offered a different motive.  He believes such failure to report crime is intentional and used to create lower crime statistics for Tampa.

Separately picking up my trash.  Beginning in June 2009, the City of Tampa had my trash retrieved by a separate truck.  This is reportedly done with the hope of finding something in the trash that is illegal or can be used against a person.  I saw the separate pick-up multiple times.  The precipitating event was obvious.  In June 2009, a Tampa City Councilwoman questioned the declining balance in the Tampa Police and Fire Pension Fund, assuming it was due to investments.  I responded by e-mail, explaining Mayor Pam Iorio increased the pension benefit by 40 percent, which was supposed to coincide with a more than doubling of employee and city contribution rates.  Instead, contribution rates were decreased to a fraction of prior rates.  Annual employer/employee contributions were $9 million in 2003 before the benefit increase, and $24 million in 2004 and 2005 after the benefit increase (consistent with the funding plan), and then plummeted to less than $3 million in 2006 and beyond.  I used the police chief as an example to estimate that his pension alone is underfunded by about $1.4 million, which would cost Tampa drivers $160 million in auto insurance increases, if this is how the police chief’s shortfall will be funded.  My trash then became of interest to City of Tampa officials, once my allegations were no doubt shared with them.  Two months later, the mayor announced Tampa’s police chief would be retiring; and then he immediately departed, at which time my trash was no longer of interest.  In the City’s next budget, pension contribution rates were increased.