Dean Davis says allegations are unjustifiedHIGH SPRINGS – A High Springs Police Department officer has filed a complaint stating that Mayor Dean Davis threatened his job for speaking out against the city commission’s plans to cut ties with the Alachua County Combined Communication Center (CCC) and to return to a local dispatch service.
In a Friday, June 22, memo to High Springs Police Department (HSPD) Chief Steve Holley, Sergeant Antoine Sheppard stated that Mayor Dean Davis commented to another High Springs employee regarding Sheppard’s vocal opposition to the changes with dispatch.
“Mayor Davis stated that I should be careful and eventually I would get in trouble if I did not shut my mouth up about the police dispatch debate,” Sheppard said in his complaint.
“If we had a different Chief of Police here, Antoine would not have a job,” continued Sheppard’s letter, recounting the suspected comments by the High Springs mayor. “Mayor Dean Davis allegedly stated that I was an embarrassment to the Chief and the City for speaking out against the city’s decision to reclaim dispatch and I had no business speaking out anyways.”
The letter continued by stating that Davis said Sheppard would be unable to find employment anywhere else as a result of the City’s actions.
During a May 15 Town Hall Meeting, two HSPD police officers expressed concerns about the safety of a city-operated dispatch. Sergeant Antoine Sheppard and Officer Dustyn Shenk felt that, after working under both the CCC and the previous High Springs dispatch service, the City should remain with the CCC.
In response to the letter by Sheppard, Davis stated in an e-mail, “This is inter-office communication. I see no reason for any action on our part. It is not a formal complaint against the mayor; it is an IOC based on hearsay.”
When questioned about the complaint, Davis said the comments were unjustified, and that Sheppard does not speak for the majority of the police officers.
Unless adequate funding is provided, the city-operated dispatch would put the lives of the officers and High Springs residents in jeopardy, Sheppard said during the Town Hall Meeting. If the City funds the project properly, he said he would welcome a local dispatch.
With a local dispatch, the police department would lose the ability to "ping" phones, automatically track a caller’s location and instantly request back-up from the Alachua County Sheriff’s Office. On May 22, the commission voted to bring the dispatch back to High Springs without information about how much the dispatch would cost or if it would be properly funded.
“When the lives of my fellow officers and citizens are placed in jeopardy, I will NOT remain silent, even if that causes me to lose my employment with the City of High Springs,” Sheppard’s letter stated. “I am 100 percent sure that these comments were made by Mayor Davis.”
On Tuesday, Davis said the comments were taken out of context and became a matter of “he said, she said.”
“I couldn’t fire him if I wanted to,” Davis said. “I’m not against the Police Department. Antoine is a good policeman.”
One reason commissioners were in favor of the local dispatch is that the City would not have to change street names to meet CCC regulations. Commissioner Linda Gestrin said she advocated bringing the dispatch back to the City to create autonomy, and it is a drawing point to people searching for a future hometown that High Springs has its own police department and fire department.
While the commission had approved withdrawing from the CCC and instead operating the dispatch locally, it may not be a done deal. Commissioner Scott Jamison said at a June 19 special commission meeting that he will be placing an item on the upcoming June 28 agenda to rescind the previous decision and discuss staying with the CCC.
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