Last June 18, the Flagler County Sheriff’s Office’s school resource deputies were conducting a “Personal Empowerment Camp” at Buddy Taylor Middle School. During the camp, Cpl. William Lowe was alleged to have used the terms “white power” in front of students, and to have told them that, according to a supervisor’s memo, “they better behave or they would be removed because they don’t pay his bills and he will not lose his job because of them.”
At least two deputies told superiors that they themselves heard Lowe use the phrase “white power,” and that he had spoken it loud enough for the whole class of children to hear. Lowe had allegedly said it while demonstrating a hammer fist. A third deputy who was also in the room said he’d not heard the phrase spoken. A fourth said he was in the bathroom and so could not have heard what was said.
A sheriff’s deputy and the director of the Police Athletic League, which was organizing the camp, heard all four talk of the incident afterward, informed the sergeant in charge of school resource deputies, who then informed a commander. The next day, an internal investigation began.
Lowe was removed from the program and reassigned to patrol duties. He said he was mis-heard, that all he’d referred to was something along the lines of “I have the power,” a line from a “He Man” cartoon from the 1980s about “the most powerful man in the universe.” (“I’ve got the power” is a 1990 pop song by a German group.)
Today, the sheriff’s office released the completed internal affairs investigation (though it had been completed on Sept. 9), finding the allegation against Lowe’s use of the words “white power” unsubstantiated, in that some deputies said they heard it, others said they didn’t. The investigation did substantiate his comment regarding his job, but also found that the comment had not been made aggressively or maliciously.
Lowe is known to come across a bit more gruff or coarse than he is, according to some of those who know him. One former deputy who knew him well described him as a practical joker with a dark sense of humor that others could appreciate, since it helped to cope with the job, and that he could at times push the envelope and say things that could easily be taken out of context.
Cmdr. Phil Reynolds, who heads the sheriff’s youth services division, which includes all school resource deputies, told an internal investigator that he’d had to bring “a couple” of situations to Sgt. Chris Ragazzo about Lowe “regarding tone, language and actions.” But Lowe’s personnel file does not reflect serious issues. He earned a promotion to corporal, he’s never been investigated before, and has no “current” corrective measures, according to the internal investigation conducted by Det. Randall Doyle. He’s been with the sheriff’s office since September 2006.
Lowe’s issue at Buddy Taylor, at least regarding the inappropriate statement about his job, resulted in a reprimand. He was reinstated to his job as a school resource deputy, though he’s not been on the job recently due to a motorcycle accident off duty. He is recovering, and expected to return to his SRD duties.
The internal investigation did not include any of the largely pre-teen children who were in attendance at the camp, focusing on the deputies in the room and various supervisors.
The deputies involved included Sam Cooper, Robin Towns, Ralph Lilavois and Nicholas Champion.
Cooper said he “heard something” but said he tuned it out. Deputy Robin Towns–who would later say he wasn;t absolutely certain he’d heard what he’d heard, which is why he asked for confirmation–asked him: “Did he just say white power?” He had heard it, Cooper said, but didn’t think anything of it–he didn’t know who it came from. But Towns took it as “validation to what he had just heard,” according to the investigation. And Lilavois had walked over to ask them if they’d heard the comment. Lilavois had been some 25 feet away from them. The three “laughed off” the comment, according to Towns, acknowledging it was “kinda raw.”
Lowe, Cooper told investigators, was a “fun guy” who liked to joke around, but was not a racist–had never said anything racist in the years he’d known him. Towns, who has sought out Lowe for guidance beyond the job, described Lowe the same way, but said that while the comment “really didn’t bother me, however it was a shock that it would come out in their environment,” meaning the children’s environment.
A statement about “white power” would be shocking in any environment, of course, and would be inappropriate–and bigoted–whatever the venue: the offhanded casualness with which deputies reacted to what they thought they heard itself raises questions about their awareness of the seriousness of the terms, or their sensitivity to racially charged language. But their reaction was not under investigation. Only Lowe’s alleged statements were, though the internal investigation approached the inquiry with the seriousness warranted by the allegation.
Deputy Ralph Lilavois was more detailed. He said Lowe was instructing camp children on how to make a fist and strike without hurting themselves, and instructed one of the children to stand up and show the others his fist. It was then that Lilavois said he heard Lowe make the “white power” comment, and that “he was both hurt and shocked by the comment,” according to the investigation.”
“I don’t think he truly meant that but was more like making a joke,” Lilavois told the investigator when asked of Lowe’s intent, explaining that Lowe is always the type to make jokes, say “inappropriate and immature things,” but wasn’t a racist. He thought it was not a reflection of who Lowe was.
Champion was sitting with another deputy at a checkout table, waiting for parents to pick up their children, when Nicole Quintieri, the PAL director who’d overheard the deputies talk about the statement, asked the deputies at the table about it. They said they hadn’t heard. Champion had worked with Lowe for a year and had never known him to make such charged statements, considering him supportive and honest.
Several other deputies who were present at the school said they’d not heard Lowe make the racially charged statement, though they;d heard him say something about his job and seeming to admonish the children. Some among them said they’d heard Lowe make inappropriate statements before, but “nothing anyone has ever taken offense to.” Lowe, one said, is known for going “too far” with his jokes. And one deputy, David Agata, who had been standing only a few feet away from Lowe at the time of the alleged statement, described at length what he had heard: that Lowe had been encouraging students and made a direct reference to “He-Man and the Masters of the Universe” when he said “I’ve got the power.” Agata remembered thinking to himself that the students were too young to catch the reference.
Agata would later feel “overwhelmed and surprised” to hear that Lowe had been reassigned, especially since he knew precisely what Lowe had said. When Towns was called back and asked in a second interview whether it was possible that he;d confused “white power” with “I’ve got the power,” Towns said it was. But Lilavois in his second interview insisted that he was “one hundred percent certain that I heard that he said ‘White Power.’ Like I said,” he continued, referring to his colleagues, “when I looked up and I saw the look on their faces that they had heard the same thing.”
Lowe told the investigator that he wasn’t “in the slightest or remotely in any way” racist, and had “absolutely” never used racially charged language, nor ever been counseled for anything approaching that sort of thing. When asked if he wanted to add anything, Lowe, according to the investigator’s report, said “he himself would feel horrible if anyone working with him were subjected to the allegation that was made. Cpl. Lowe also advised that he understands how someone could misinterpret something that was said if not in close proximity and engaged in other activities at the time.” He said he was looking forward to “the opportunity to apologize to his team and supervisors for the misunderstanding and the need for each of them to become involved in an investigation based on something he is responsible for.”
Ironically, the attorney present during the internal affairs interview with Lowe had to ask Lowe to explain the He-Man reference.
The Geode says
Doesn’t matter if he said, “white power” or not – we don’t need deputies THAT stupid monitoring children …
Seriously ? Maybe he was talking about drugs and told the kids NEVER TOUCH the ” WHITE POWDER “
Name (required) says
Flagler county cops (not all, but some; including their leader) are notorious and well known for their Immature, insensitive, childlike, and moreover, completely unprofessional “commentary.” That said, there is absolutely no argument among those who’ve witnessed first hand especially, the total lack of professionalism, decorum, decency, and overall shame from the “candid culture” of this county’s law officers. Internal affairs would have a field day with the number of complaints that would’ve normally been accounted for, (but of course discouraged, Well, you know why,) their total and complete ineptitude with regard to their positions in society. These deputies and sadly, their cohorts in higher positions, are perpetually compromised in the realm of public opinion, based on stories and accounts by any public, who’ve endeavored their “process.” These are literally children with badges and guns, tasked with the most important of civil duties. Yet, oversight is nonexistent and actually encourages this unrefined mentality. Think (green roof inn,) and ridiculous (dope house) yard signs littering the neighborhoods of homes involved in drug offenses, etc. I’m sure neighbors must just love that. We all get it, you have a job to do, but quit acting like thirsty teenagers when your civil roles are on the same plane as county judges, prosecutors, the entire judicial system, etc. As an average citizen, the stories of indiscretions that have been rumored about this county’s officers is downright Despicable. As for first-hand experience, well, It’s solidified in stone. Sensitivity training isn’t even the answer. Why? It’s a culture within a closed and tightly knit, impenetrable organization, of like minded zealots. There.. SAID IT. grow up, FCSO. I mean, how do you criticize a group that keeps the streets safe, yet acts like unprofessional assholes at the same time?? It’s Tricky territory. But refinement, They certainly could use. FACT. For grown men with loaded guns and bulletproof vests, they sure are “skiddish.” Man up, men. Man up. And quit acting like high schoolers, The law you are not; nor are you above. But while you serve, have dignity and respect for your community members. It’ll only solidify your merit and valor as an LEO. We’re ALL watching you, Trust.
Lance Carroll says
Nail on the head…
Maybe we’ll see a candidate in 2020 who’ll bring a sense of maturity back to the Sheriffs Office. We have a leader of these men and women making off color remarks almost on a daily basis and a deputy is thought to have said something out of line and he’s in trouble. It’s hypocritical. Don’t want your deputies acting as you do? Don’t act as you do.
Name (required) says
Addendum: Recognizing respect for our LEO’ s, their civic duties, and the difficulty of the job they do. In short, the above comment is only a candid criticism, and for entertainment Purposes only.
What race is accused Lowe…….what race is ALL his accusers since again race card is issued
Willy Boy says
Photos of the parties involved much needed to determine the who, what and why of this one.
I’m confused at the fact that county resources would be allocated to preform such an investigation. Simply hearing only the words “white power” are only racially charged when received by an already racially charged and bigoted mind in the first place. So a noun and an adjective perceived to have been heard from across a room full of people are now public enemy number one? Why as alleged professionals and adults, would the other deputies involved and especially when claiming to be ”both hurt and shocked by the comment,” not just clarify the situation with Cpl Lowe at the time of the incident? It seems to me the issue isn’t the misheard comment uttered by Cpl Lowe , its the fact it seems he wasn’t even given the opportunity at the time of the misunderstanding to clear it up and thanks to some immature water cooler gossip by the other deputies present tax dollars and county resources have been wasted to confront a situation that should have been a non issue in the first place. Had any other officer present just stopped them and asked Cpl Lowe if they had heard him correctly, there’d have been no need for this ridiculousness. Flagler county has true crime and true issues far more important than a ridiculous misunderstanding over a He- Man reference.
I don’t know, the fact that the higher ups have heard things about this guy, but his direct superior acts like nothing has gone on seems a little fishy and warrants an investigation. Someone is covering something up. Either his direct superior has covered something up, or people don’t feel comfortable going to him and go above him. As someone that has managed people, there would be an entire HR investigation on my ass if my superiors had to come talk to me about someone going above me to complain about something and me acting like I had no idea what was going on with my people. If what is being reported multiple times is true about this guy, tax dollars are a good thing to spend to get him away from children and out of service.
Concerned momma says
Exactly !! When you read the report forget all the other stuff or misunderstanding presumption. The clear line each deputy mostly said is “ he jokes a lot and has a dark humor or he’s immature. And goes too far … nobody wants to be that guy that points this supervisors misdeeds out !!! He clearly is perceived by most that he takes stuff too far … so as a parent it concerns me that his SGT has never once tried to correct his odd tone not had his higher ups … his commander nor his chief to include the Sheriff ….. know this guy is a loose cannon so the cover up and result is oh since nobody said anything for certain let’s make it go away and let him back around our children no matter what color they are he’s obviously seems rude and harsh…. I will say this to sheriff staly. …. where’s the zero tolerance here ? Granted we all like to be given a second chance However you are placing this man right back in the environment to be an asshole to our children !! And as a parent who children attend BTES where this man works … I got a problem with that and so should the school and so should his supervisors …. what a waste of tax dollars to do absolutely nothing !!! I’m gonna ask the school that he refrai. From speaking to my children period !!!!
So again I’m confused. Did anyone else read the same 41 pages I read? I read nothing about Cpl Lowe being a loose cannon or any conspiracy or cover up. What I read was multiple colleagues and superiors state repeatedly that they had never observed Cpl Lowe to be racist, speak in a racist manner or to exhibit any prejudiced behavior whatsoever. There’s nothing in the pages of that report that indicate a cover up. In my opinion what is contained in that report is the account of an officer being 25-30 feet away being adamant that he heard an inappropriate statement from across a room full of rowdy kids and other officers. While the officer 6 feet away who was observing the instruction heard a He-Man reference, and the officer 3 feet away heard the same thing. And the same officer standing 25-30 feet away repeatedly addressing his colleagues to discuss what he thought he heard with multiple people who were not present. During one of the multiple conversations Dep Lilavois has with seemingly everyone present BUT Cpl Lowe, the hearsay and search for confirmation seems to have been overheard by Dir Quintieri and later in the day sent up the chain of command. Does it strike no one else as odd that before this ridiculous incident in the afternoon Sgt Ragazzo receives notice of Dir Quintieri being “not happy” with Cpl Lowe for changing the the room assignments due to inclement weather and his desire to PROTECT a child with pet allergies from the K9 demonstration earlier that same day. Then magically she’s the one to be so offended and concerned about Cpl Lowe’s inappropriateness and is sure to report him. Is no one considering the that this was an ANTI BULLYING/ SELF EMPOWERMENT workshop for kids and find it off that a deputy not only involved in but supervising such a program is really a guy who would attempt to instill bigotry? It’s ridiculous. I’ll give you everyone interviewed said his demeanor could be inappropriate and immature, and his tone could be coarse at times but that’s a far leap from racism or a bigot. In my opinion any LEO who has put in 13 years and all of the things and dangers and horrible sights and situations that come with that who can still be classified as a joker by colleagues and is willing to work with today’s youth in an attempt to uplift and empower them is doing better than the rest of us and is at least owed the respect of his colleagues at least attempting to clarify the statement with him before creating a baseless witch hunt or creating such a negative public backlash with nothing but hearsay at best to substantiate any of the original claims in the first place. It’s sad to me that so many are more ready to believe someone is a terrible person than you are to believe anything positive because it’s so much more fun to talk about.
Brian Goyétt-LaFountaine says
“EXACTLY what I was thinking, however I can answer your question. It’s called” Cancel Culture “. No matter how much good, or even average expectation one exhibits, there is now that ‘4th Wall’, if you will, that digs and digs to find SOMEthing at fault. Everyone wants to be a journalist, judge and Jury from their desolate, lonely homes, hiding behind a five inch hand held device, getting back at the world because they were kicked one too many times from the sand box or wasn’t loved enough by their mother or father and now want to be pseudo-cop of the world. These types make up a large percentage of nosey H.O.A. Presidents or board members when they retire in NY or NJ, then move here, only to bitch about a flag you hung in front of your very own home that is one inch larger that is allowed in the Deed Restricted Community (HOA) By-Laws. These ‘Cancel CULTURE VICTIMS’ are a great instigator and model ‘Sh*t Stirrer’ that is creating hate and destruction within our own borders unlike anything Russia and its Trolls could ever dream of. The upcoming entitled, consummate victim mentality generation will only make this worse before it breaks, after destroying all sense of Humility, that Americans used to be so proud to behold. Yeah… I said it, go ahead and cancel me, lol.
It “SHOULD” NOT make any difference at all what the skin color is of the officers involved or any other witness to the presentation! Asking for such a thing is prejudicial in itself!
Since NO one is sure exactly what was said why is this an issue?
William K Hall says
What a bunch of snowflakes. People say stupid stuff and make jokes that they wish they hadn’t. Big deal. I’ve done it and im sure most of you people commenting have as well. It seems like now in America people are out for blood. Rather than use this so-called “incident” as a teaching tool, lets fire this deputy and unwind his multiple years of service to the community. Furthermore, shame on the media for perpetuating the racist propaganda. Racism is not as prevalent as it is portrayed. I grew up in the deep south amongst some very racist divides but I judge a person for a person.
What do you mean “you people”?
As a soon to be father I will be home schooling my child and will be warning the about the racist disgusting kkk cops I’ve been hearing so much about even before I moved down here. These white supremacists feel so empowered by this president it’s like everyday you hear about some sh*t like this.
IMO all too many are just LOOKING to be “OFFENDED” today.
When will we do away with racist police kn Flagler county? Is there a reason they are so easily hired and seem to flock here? This just another incident here in Flagler where the deputies have shown racist behavior in public. Now they are doing it to our children!? Fire this deputy at once and try to regain public trust in your department.
I am a COP in Palm Coast. I’m also a volunteer at the school, Mr.. Lowe works at. I know him for over 4 years and, I have never heard say , or even kid around about race. I’m Puerto Rican, and I’ve been around racist , or people who likes to make racial comments. Believe me William Lowe is far from all that.