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Lakeland PD responds to state attorney's accusations | News

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Lakeland PD responds to state attorney's accusations

Lakeland, FL -- Chief Lisa Womack called it an explanation, not a rebuttal.

Six hundred pages of documents addressing concerns raised last month by Polk State Attorney Jerry Hill.

"It is intended to be factual information as to what occurred," said Womack.

Case-by-case, detectives addressed allegations of sloppiness that are, in Hill's words, jeopardizing public safety by costing prosecutors convictions.

"We appreciate the input we get from outside agencies," said Lt. Steve Walker, who led the LPD investigation to Hill's allegations.

But in many instances, Lt. Walker found Hill's accusations inaccurate or misleading. He said officers had, in fact, tried to reach sometimes-unwilling witnesses. The State Attorney's Office had, in fact, received reports Hill claimed they had not, and his office is even re-filing some cases based on those revelations.

"It's not a blame game. It's not a finger-pointing," said Chief Womack. "Things happen. We have shown the appropriate paperwork on five or six of these cases. It's there or in their hands."

The department was still investigating some other accusations. Officers had been disciplined in some cases. In others, the lapses were chalked-up to antiquated messaging systems which were updated to electronic emails in late 2013.

Asked whether this would change his mind about firing Chief Womack, newly-elected Mayor Howard Wiggs was hesitant, wanting first to hear state attorney's response.

"He may, on all the things we came back on and said we're doing this and this and this -- he may say 'that's not the way to do it and I'll tell you why,'" said the mayor.

Lakeland Police also said it had a lower ratio of complaints than indicated when it comes to the department's 911 call response. There were also only a handful of complaints regarding the issuance of public records.

The next move, says City Manager Doug Thomas, is to meet with Jerry Hill and try to work out differences.

No date has been set.

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