Internal affairs investigation into Bradenton Police deputy chief resumes

BRADENTON -- Following the filing of criminal misdemeanor charges against Bradenton Police Deputy Chief Warren Merriman, an internal affairs investigation is expected to take at least another week.

Merriman, Bradenton Police's second in command, was charged with three counts of petit theft Thursday following weeks of investigation by the Manatee County Sheriff's Office and further review by the State Attorney's Office.

The allegations became public on Sept. 8 and Merriman, a 17-year veteran with a nearly spotless discipline record with the department, was placed on administrative leave with pay. The Manatee County Sheriff's Office was asked to handle the investigation by Bradenton Police Chief Michael Radzilowski because Merriman's oversees the police's Internal Affairs Department.

With criminal charges filed, the sheriff's office has now resumed its internal affairs investigation to determine what, if any, administrative policies or procedures were violated by Merriman. Chief Assistant State

Attorney Lon Arend and Misdemeanor Division Chief Heather Doyle will prosecute the case.

Manatee County Sheriff's Office spokesman Dave Bristow said he expects that to take at least another week to complete.

Radzilowski did not wish to comment about the charges on Friday.

"I am not commenting on the case because I don't know the nuts and bolts," Radzilowski said. The chief did say his second in command would likely remain on paid administrative leave until the sheriff's office completes its internal affairs investigation and presents him with the findings.

He added, however, that he needs to speak with Bradenton Mayor/Police Commissioner Wayne Poston for that decision.

The first two counts filed against Merriman charge him with claiming and getting paid for hours of off-duty detail at McKechnie Field which he did not complete. On Feb. 25, the probable-cause affidavit said he left three hours early to go play tennis but still filed a claim for the entire shift. On July 29, 2013, the report said he left the detail for one hour to attend a crime-prevention meeting at the Bradenton Municipal Auditorium and claimed more time than he had actually served.

Off-duty details are scheduled through the police department and are organized by a lieutenant in the department, according to Internal Affairs Lt. Josh Cramer. Shift supervisors also must have a list of all off-duty details, he added.

Guidelines for off-duty details are outlined in the department's Procedural General Orders.

"Officers shall remain at the location of the detail at all times unless an emergency requires him/her to leave. The shift supervisor shall endeavor to ensure another Off-Duty Officer is assigned to complete the detail," the orders state.

According to the policy, leaving the detail early or failing to turn in accurate log sheets to the employer could result in an officer being suspended or permanently being removed from off-duty detail employment.

The policy also states, "Officers violating off-duty employment policies or procedures, or failing to report to off-duty employment assignments, shall be disciplined ..."

It is considered a Level 2 violation and officer would receive a 30-day suspension from off-duty employment for a first offense.

The third count charges Merriman with calling an on-duty sergeant to his home to assist him with building a prefabricated garden shed, according to the report. The report states the sergeant asked him before starting, and again when they finished four and half hours later, whether he should put in for compensatory time. He said that Merriman told him not to worry about it.

Merriman didn't wish to make any official comments on Friday, but loved ones and friends have taken to the Internet to defend him.

Within hours of the charges, his wife, Devon Carr Davis, posted comments on Facebook:

"To all of our friends who have been so supportive, thank you, once again, and now that the Assistant State Atty. Lon Arrend has finally disclosed the 'allegations' and filed three misdemeanor charges against Warren, we still know he is innocent of the charges and can prove it in court," she wrote. "We want his good name cleared and everyone to know he is innocent."

Jessica De Leon, Herald law enforcement reporter, can be reached at 941-745-7049. You can follow her on Twitter @JDeLeon1012.