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Bunnell PD Seizes Ex-Cop’s Lost Flash Drive, Deleting Files Against His Consent

| July 28, 2011

bunnell flash drive police department seizure roosevelt james

Anything you flash can and will be used against you. (© FlaglerLive)

An ex-Bunnell police officer has requested a formal investigation by the Florida Department of Law Enforcement (FDLE) of the Bunnell Police Department’s holding and handling of his private flash drive for almost a month. The drive was lost in Palm Coast six months after the Palm Coast resident had lost his job with the department. The flash drive was found, turned into the Bunnell Police Department, and subsequently held there for 26 days, against its owner’s consent. Its contents were allegedly examined without a warrant and mostly deleted.

Bunnell officials say they have the case under review.

The ex-officer at the center of this latest controversy to hit the Bunnell Police Department is Roosevelt James. In January, “he was offered the opportunity to resign, he didn’t take it, and he was terminated,” according to Bunnell City Attorney Sid Nowell. “They basically said he didn’t pass his probationary period.” As James put it: “Their reason was that I didn’t respond to training.”

James tried out for the police department and failed: That’s not in dispute. When he was on the force during his probationary period, he documented a lot of what he did for his own personal records. He saved those records electronically. That’s not in dispute, either: employees in all walks of life often document their work as a matter of routine and protection. It would not be unusual for a police officer to do the same in Bunnell, whose police department has been investigated by the State Attorney’s office for, among other things, poor record-keeping and shoddy policing. That pattern has continued.

Here’s where it gets strange and, the way so many matters involving the Bunnell Police Department do these days, disturbing.

On June 21, James, who lives at European Village, lost a computer flash drive somewhere in Palm Coast. “My flash drive contained various documents and files,” he wrote in a time-line of the incident, “including files I saved while being employed as a police officer for the city of Bunnell, personal information, school work, previous addresses and work information.”

At 10 a.m. the next day, James got a text on his phone from Bunnell police officer Pena telling him that someone had found the flash drive and dropped it off at the Bunnell police station. At 2:30 p.m. the same day, James signed in at the Bunnell Police Department to pick up the flash drive. It wasn’t there. He was told the officer still had the flash drive and wasn’t at the station. James and Pena exchanged texts, confirming that Pena still had the device.

Over the next five days, according to James, he tried again to pick up the drive at the station, but was then told, according to James, that “it was under review by Lt. Burke,” the second-in-command at the station. On June 29, James got yet another text from Pena, “stating that my flash drive was put into evidence and that I was going to have to wait until 7/5/2011 to pick it up from evidence,” James wrote.

James again tried to pick up the drive on July 16, signing in at the police department. He was told the drive was, in fact, in evidence, but that he couldn’t have it: the person responsible for the evidence room, now located in the old city hall, was not available.

On July 18, James finally retrieved the flash drive. He examined it on the same day “and found the entire contents had been erased and only three files remained, none of which I could open,” James wrote.

“It is evident the Bunnell Police Department failed to follow their own policy and procedure by not entering my property into evidence immediately after receiving my flash drive,” James wrote in a chronology of the incident, “failing to allow me to retrieve my property in a  timely manner, and then deleting its contents.” He forwarded the chronology to members of the Bunnell City Commission, the FDLE’s computer crime center and the police department.

Arthur Jones, the Bunnell police chief—who spent most of the weeks coinciding with the incident’s timeline on vacation—had few comments about the incident. “I’m waiting for Mr. James to come into the police department to file a formal complaint,” Jones said earlier this week. “I don’t know that anything has happened at this point. I’m right now looking into it as an inquiry.” Jones said he’d contacted James twice.

Jones added: “Anything dealing with police property is just that, police property, and at this point we’re not sure as to what Mr. James is alleging so I cannot speculate.”

Last Friday, Armando Martinez, the city manager, asked Jones to look into the matter and report back to him. “I was concerned about it but I’m not going to jump to conclusions until all the facts are in,” Martinez said.

Nowell, the city attorney, who has also been looking into the matter, said the flash drive was first found by a private citizen, who, Nowell presumes, looked into the flash drive to find out who it belongs to, then turned over to the department and looked into again. At either point, files could have been altered or deleted, Nowell said, without malicious intent. Nowell also raised questions.

“In his capacity as an officer he kept official PD documents, I’d like to know why,” Nowell said. “I’m not questioning the right of a private citizen to have them.” But Nowell wanted to know what specific police department documents had been kept and why. “He might have a legitimate reason.”

Private files were deleted as well, James is claiming.

“I’ve asked the chief to find out why Pena or anyone else would purposely delete private information,” Nowell said, noting that it was too early to reach any conclusions. “I do not believe anything nefarious was being done,” he said.

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24 Responses for “Bunnell PD Seizes Ex-Cop’s Lost Flash Drive, Deleting Files Against His Consent”

  1. Larry says:

    Here we go again. How long is this rogue local government going to get away with this before something is done about it? The administration time and again shows that they are scandalous and malicious.

    Here is how it works in Bunnell. You either get kosher with the corrupt culture or else you will find yourself on the way out. If you file a complaint, the complaint gets reviewed through their “formal” process which is often administered by none other than the same people you are making the claim against. That is why Arthur Jones welcomes a formal complaint being made because he knows it will go under review by the City’s PD staff with assistance of HR staff which are still both under close direct control of Martinez. Martinez has his loyal subjects in all the right positions to maintain his power. Despite witnessing these wrongdoings, the staff members participating in the investigations dare not cross Martinez and his band of “professional” thugs or they will also be out, probably with disparaging marks on their own record. In this administration, if you are a “good soldier”, you get rewarded, if not, you are highly suspicious and will find yourself on the way out sooner or later. It is like a modern day mini Nazi camp over there.

    Only in a place like Bunnell can these folks get away with this!

  2. Johnny Taxpayer says:

    When is the Barney Fife Bunnell PD going to be finally shut down? The old Chuck Norris movie Breaker Breaker could have easily been filmed in Bunnell, and without hiring actors.

  3. Dan Cooper says:

    [Comment banned. Your comment will not appear because it was either libelous, slanderous, gratuitously rude or name-calling, or all of the above. Please read our comment policy.–The Editors.]

  4. RedRover says:

    Andy, I lost my bullet. Goober found it and won’t give it back. Andy…make goober give it back…
    I’m sorry Barney, you just can’t be driving around with that bullet in your pocket. Your going to land up hurting someone. Now goober, you give me the bullet and I’ll keep it in my drawer for safe keepings.

  5. Val Jaffee says:

    I recently got into watching The Wire on my computer, a show that aired on HBO from 2002 – 2008. It was written by a police detective and a police reporter and chronicles life in American cities, and the politics and gov’t institutions (police, schools, court, etc.) in the city of Baltimore, MD. Brilliant work once you get past the raw language, violence and seedy stuff. Bunnell could very well be Flagler’s very own little Baltimore as featured on The Wire.

  6. County Worker says:

    The only thing missing from that police department is the big top tent and the circus music.

  7. mara says:

    Somehow, I’m a little leery of the notion that this flash drive was lost. Is the owner absolutely sure that it wasn’t stolen? Because it just seems really odd that it was “lost in Palm Coast” and yet turned up in the possession of the Bunnell PD. Palm Coast is outside their jurisdiction.

    The only other thing I can think of is that whoever found it snooped around and found items that *they* thought the PD would find interesting. If I’m the ex-cop, I’m getting a lawyer, unless there was stuff on there I truly should not have had…

  8. Popo3984 says:

    Hate to tell you but Bunnell Pd is never shutting down so deal with it

  9. Carissa says:

    Wow! I am simply amazed to read this story and the history of this City’s PD. Can hardly believe this stuff goes on. Sure glad I don’t live in that town!

  10. PJ says:

    So a former employee lost his flash drive with personal information on it. Then the most crazy story of his PD days information just happens to be on it too. All eight of you that believe this one,you all just continue to amaze me.

    This guy is not telling all the story.

  11. just a citizen says:

    Sour Grapes! Anyone ever hear of it… this has nothing to do with the Bunnell Police Department. This has to do with a disgruntled former employee who couldn’t make the grade. So now he’s making something out of nothing and using Flagler Live as his vehicle to do this. This is about a guy who couldn’t make it as a police officer and now like a child want s someone to pay…. This is not about the integrity of the men and woman who did make it and are out there putting their lives on the line every day. This is about some fumble bum who lost his jump drive and according to him possibly had some police sensitive information on it. What does he want that information for??? He got his property back!!! Who knows what was on there and when the information was lost. It was laying in a parking lot or in the road exposed to the went through several hands before being turned over to the police department…which contacted the Mr. James to pick it up…now the disgruntled one want s to make a case over this…it’s ridiculous. The only one responsible for his missing files is himself…the item could have been crushed by a vehicle tire or just thrown out by someone after picking it up. Anyone else would be just happy to get their property back…The Bunnell Police Department didn’t take the was found and brought to them…and from what I read they tried to return it. He is just looking for someone to blame for his own failures from what I can see. So really what are Mr. James’s motives for causing this uproar… they are very transparent. I think when the smoke clears from all the BS we’ll just find out this is another case of SOUR GRAPES.

  12. Joe says:

    ROTFLMAO!!!! That’s all I have to say.

  13. says:

    what a crappy pd they are not real police officers, more like clowns. they call it a city, i call it the armpit of the county. FDLE ought to take away their certification to operate as a pd and turn them into a side show

  14. Larry says:

    Sure, that might be believeable if Bunnell PD didn’t have a track record of extortion, shoddy police work, lawsuit after lawsuit, and evidence that comes and goes on its own from a locked evidence room. According to Just a Citizen, I guess we should all accept the fact that government can hold property without permission and inspect private information without a warrant. Thomas Jefferson implored citizens to “watch” their government with the same fervor as that with which the government “watches” them. Guess we should all assume that because these officers where a badge that somehow their of better moral character than the rest of us citizens and we need to just believe their side of the story. Do you really think it is just another case of someone being a sour grape? I think instead, a few individuals may need to take off the rose colored glases and see this department for what it is…

  15. just a citizen says:

    Larry I was going to go into the constitution and citizen’s rights..but you obviously know it all..I mean after all you quoted Thomas Jefferson. The Department didn’t seize the item from Mr. James; it was turned in after being found in the road. For all anyone knows he could have thrown it there…so according to Larry’s constitution, If a wallet is found and the police open the wallet to try to discover who the wallet belongs to, they have inspected private information without a warrant…great insight Larry..I didn’t know that; and if when they open the wallet they find stolen credit cards, stolen checks and drugs, the police are supposed to do nothing…interesting Larry. So if the checks and the credit cards were stolen from you.. I wonder how you would feel…or if the jump drive found was filled with child pornography…you’d be ok with that too. Let me clue you in Larry, the Police…Bunnell or otherwise don’t need a warrant to inspect something that cannot be identified found in a public place.. in fact your garbage, once it’s at the curb falls out of that protection.
    I agree with Thomas Jefferson’s quote… The problem here is you can’t tailor things to fit your own needs because you don’t like the Bunnell Police Department… do you think the things that you quoted above only go on in that Department or do you choose to just pick on them? Less than six months ago a deputy with FCSO was fired for taking money out of evidence and replacing it with paper towels, another was fired for embezzling funds, another was fired for shoddy record keeping/falsifying documents; a Flagler Beach officer was arrested for DUI another was let go for excessive use of force, I could go on and on…and by the way you don’t think these agency’s have civil lawsuits pending… look again before you speak.
    The fact is they did nothing that any other agency wouldn’t have done. I am not defending the Department per se, but under the same constitution you are quoting, they shouldn’t be judged now for what happened in the past. You need to clean your glasses Larry.

  16. PJ says:

    WOW Larry, you see how just a citizen writes. Facts just the facts, sir.(Dragnet) In you case it’s the fax just the fax sir. Larry please go and stir the pot of crap ypu pitch elsewhere. Flagler live only reports on people not doing thier jobs. Your comments are for people that can’t do their job. (as this officer could not make the grade) This shows you that Bunnell has and is looking for top quality officers with chief Jones at the lead not wanna be cops.

    Here’s a novel idea why don’t you help Washington settle the debt ceiling issue with your fantastic comments they seem to really help us here in Bunnell!

  17. RedRover says:

    Pay NO ATTENTION to that man behind the curtain. We are the Great and Powerful OZ PD.

  18. NortonSmitty says:

    It sure is entertaining though! I haven’t seen a city government and Police force like this since the Dukes of Hazzard got canceled.

  19. Larry says:

    After reading thise comments I guess I am smarter than the average bear. After all, finding a jump drive and researching its contents beyond determining ownership is searching without a warrant. Can’t be compared to simply opening a wallet to identify an owner through a driver’s license. Second, who will be okay with holding a personal wallet for 26 days so that everything else can be inspected. Really! Really? Really!

    PJ… I knew it was only a matter of time until you chimed in. Glad to see you made it home from your day job at the City of Bunnell. I do recall reading a statement from that said that the departments in Bunnell were damaged by previous administrations and now everything was cleaned up. Guess that argument hasn’t held up for more than a few days. I am not stirring the pot, just calling em like I see it. It is just entertaining to witness and be able to comment on the carnage. There is nothing like waking up in the morning, having coffee and toast, reading my daily Flagler Live to find out what the clowns over there did this week. I have to admit, I slurp it up with a big shiny spoon and love every bit of it.

    Taking everything in consideration, Bunnell has twisted around too many stories and tried to slam the credibility of too many people. It is starting to look more like they are the ones without credibility. Sure, an employer can always claim that someone didn’t make the grade, It an easy argument afterwards to say that the person is a “poor loser” or a “sour grape”. The problem is that Bunnell seems to have more problems than most. Maybe they are indeed the one with the problem. We can all make judgements. Personally, I don’t believe a thing coming from the clowns over there. We are all entitled to our opinions, that’s all. No offense taken here.

  20. Larry says:

    Right on, Smitty. There are few things more entertaining than a real life comedy for us retired folks. I too was a fan of Dukes of Hazzard. Thanks, Flagler Live. Sure do enjoy reading these stories.

  21. concerned citizen says:

    PoPo you need to get over it. That Police Department is a joke and everyone in this county along with surrounding counties know this. this Police Department need to be shut down and turned over to the Flagler County sheriffs Office. Maybe then we can get a handle on this countys drug problem. As we all know an estimated 80% of the drugs that are being sold/distrubited throughout this county are believed to come from Bunnell. Get the Sheriffs Office in there and let them do their job because lord knows the Bunnell Police Officers are not going to!!!

  22. The Piranha says:

    It’s not the tail here that’s the problem, it’s the dog who’s wagging that continually masks the truth with the few who support him. It’s very similar in Cuba where the dictator scares everyone into respecting him or he cuts their throat. Sounds like another lawsuit to me. At this rate, it looks like Bunnell city employees might not get their $400.00 holiday bonuses like last year at a cost of nearly $17,000. What a joke.

  23. PJ says:

    Larry you do have some class. However you still need to ask questions to get your answers. Yes this is America we can freely say what we think.

  24. Joe says:

    @ just a citizem, , If a wallet is found and the police open the wallet to try to discover who the wallet belongs to, they have inspected private information without a warrant…great insight Larry.

    You left out the part where they return the wallet after 26 days after deleting a few 20 dollar bills and some credit cards from it! Very Entertaining!!! rotflmao!!!!!

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