Challengers in the Bradenton mayoral race are questioning Police Chief Melanie Bevan’s handling of an ongoing investigation within the Bradenton Police Department, saying she failed to disclose the possibility of missing money, narcotics and guns from the department. They also criticized the chief for campaigning for Mayor Wayne Poston.
Bevan insists no such missing guns exist, however.
Mayoral candidate Warren Merriman, who was fired from his position as deputy police chief in January 2015, called for the resignation of Poston, who is also the police commissioner, during an impromptu press conference held on the sidewalk in front of the Bradenton Police Department.
Candidate Eleuterio Salazar Jr. later echoed the resignation demand.
Poston dismissed his challengers’ demands as politicking.
“This is about getting elected and trying to make himself look favorable to the voters,” Poston later told the Bradenton Herald, referring to Merriman. He declined further comment.
The big issue is sources inside the Bradenton Police Department say there are missing guns.
Mayoral candidate Warren Merriman
Merriman said he feels obligated to bring to light what he knows about the ongoing investigation and Bevan’s oversight.
“The big issue is sources inside the Bradenton Police Department say there are missing guns,” Merriman said. “We have violent crime in Bradenton. She should have come out, if she knew there were missing guns, which Bradenton officials were told by her, she should have come out with that because that affects our community.”
Merriman’s statements Thursday were again inaccurate, Bevan said in a statement to the Bradenton Herald, and have now reached a level of recklessness.
“All firearms at the Bradenton Police Department have been thoroughly inventoried and accounted for, and the criminal investigation has not revealed otherwise,” Bevan stated. “To instill fear in our community based on unfounded accusations is intolerable, and this department’s ethics and reputation will not be questioned or compromised in an effort to further anyone’s personal agenda.”
Bevan also said she could not continue to jeopardize the integrity of the investigation by responding repeatedly to false accusations.
Missing money is a problem, Merriman told the media.
“But when you have guns on the street that possibly came from our police department property and evidence room, I have a problem with that,” Merriman said.
Bevan, according to Merriman, thrust herself into the political arena when she was photographed while wearing a Poston campaign T-shirt.
“Now this is an issue,” Salazar said. “It is unethical of her, and now we need an independent review of the investigation.”
Salazar said he no longer thought Bradenton police could be trusted to handle the investigation without bias.
This is about getting elected and trying to make himself look favorable to the voters.
Bradenton Mayor Wayne Poston
Salazar Jr. also thrust the blame on Poston.
“Most definitely he should resign,” Salazar said, adding that as the police commissioner, Poston should have made the investigation public and assured the community it would be released in its entirety once complete.
After leading the city for 17 years, Salazar said, “He should know better than that.”