As the next possible police commissioner of the Bradenton Police Department, former deputy chief and mayoral candidate Warren Merriman may not be able to be a police officer again in the future.
The Florida Department of Law Enforcement has filed an administrative complaint against Merriman with the Criminal Justice Standards and Training Commission. A disciplinary hearing is scheduled for Nov. 3 in Sarasota, which could lead to a suspension or revocation of Merriman’s law enforcement certification.
The election is Nov. 8.
Merriman was fired from the department in January 2015 amid allegations he collected pay for hours he did not work. He was convicted in February and ordered to serve three months’ probation by Senior Circuit Judge Lee E. Haworth, but the conviction was withheld from Merriman’s permanent record.
The CJSTC is a 19-member commission whose responsibilities include reviewing and administering appropriate administrative sanctions in instances when an officer is found to be in violation of Florida statutes and CJSTC standards.
The FDLE complaint alleges Merriman is guilty of violating CJSTC standards based on his conviction and that he failed to maintain the qualifications that “require a law enforcement, correctional, and instructor officer in the State of Florida have a good moral character.”
Merriman said he is not worried about the complaint.
“It’s basically standard protocol when you have a disciplinary history. There’s probably 50 people that go up before every commission meeting. I’ll present my case to the commission, and I’m not worried about it,” Merriman said.
Merriman said he had the option to push the hearing back until after the election, but he said he does not think it will hurt his campaign.
Eleuterio Salazar Jr. also is running for mayor against Merriman and incumbent Mayor Wayne Poston. Salazar and Merriman have not engaged one another in recent debates, preferring to stay focused on Poston, but Salazar said it’s time to speak about a possible Merriman administration.
“I’ve tried to stay out of that completely because I want to run a positive, clean campaign,” Salazar said. “But I will say it’s hard for someone to ask and seek a position of mayor when they’ve had these types of issues that follow them,” Salazar said. “If he were to be elected, you’re going to have a police department that may not work with you. He had many officers in those allegations speaking up against him. I don’t know if that’s the right person to be in office.”
Poston said a member of the Bradenton Police Department will attend the Nov. 3 hearing. While Merriman has said repeatedly in public that there is no record of conviction in Manatee County on his record, Poston pointed out Haworth’s decision to clear his record was as long as Merriman successfully completed probation.
“He was found guilty of theft,” Poston said. “That’s the correct and legal term. He can argue it anyway he likes, but he was, in fact, found guilty of theft and fired for actions unbecoming of an officer. As far as him being a police commissioner, it’s a nightmare scenario because of the number of officers in our department who testified against him. I don’t know how anyone can be effective as a police commissioner with that following you.”