Florida

She had to interview neighbors of families suspected of child abuse. She didn’t, cops say

A former child protection investigator faces felony charges over falsifying documents, the Pinellas County Sheriff’s Office said.

The agency terminated and arrested Taylor Martin, 26, on Friday after an investigation revealed that she had faked interviews in three separate cases. No children were harmed because of the negligence, Sheriff Bob Gualtieri said.

“She just chose to cut corners and not do her job,” Gualtieri told reporters.

During her three-year tenure at the sheriff’s office, Martin handled cases involving child abuse, abandonment and neglect. A key fixture of these cases is called “neighbor collateral” which involves agents interviewing people who live next to the families under investigation.

An internal audit of Martin’s reports found that she wouldn’t interview the neighbors, instead just writing what she believed they would say.

“She makes up specifics,” Gualtieri said, “and those specifics that she makes up about no concern about drug dealing, people coming and going, et cetera turn out to be false because when the neighbor is actually interviewed, they say that there are shady things going on.”

In one case, Martin documented that a neighbor “denied ever hearing any noises and concerns about domestic violence.” That turned out to be false, the investigation found — the neighbor said he had heard domestic disputes at the house in question. In another case, Martin wrote that the neighbor didn’t have any problems with the mother’s alcohol abuse.

“When supervisors interviewed the neighbor, she expressed the opposite,” Gualtieri said. “She had concerns about the children’s care by the mother because ‘the children run the streets’ and the mother is ‘intoxicated all the time.’”

The inconsistencies resulted in Martin being taken in for questioning. While in custody, Martin admitted to creating false reports, according to the sheriff, justifying her actions by stating she was overwhelmed and had “too many tasks to complete.” Gualtieri said the average investigator’s case load is 12 to 15, which is consistent with the standards of the Child Welfare League of America.

Martin, who posted her $15,000 bond, will have all of her cases reviewed for irregularities, according to the agency.

“It is very concerning because by not doing her job, she very easily could’ve put kids in harms way,” Gualtieri said.

C. Isaiah Smalls II is a reporter covering breaking and trending news for the Miami Herald. Previously, he worked for ESPN’s The Undefeated as part of their inaugural class of Rhoden Fellows. He is a graduate of both Columbia University and Morehouse College.
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