UMATILLA, Fla. -- Longtime police Chief Doug Foster could be fired pending the outcome of a termination hearing, City Manager Glenn Irby told the Orlando Sentinel today.
Foster -- who has been chief for 21 years -- was placed on paid administrative leave this week following an incident in which one of his officers detained and questioned two 13-year-old middle-school students without their parents being present in the room, Irby said. The kids were being investigated last month for aggravated assault after it was reported they beat another child in the head and legs with a stick, Irby said.
"I cannot find good cause or reasoning behind why the parents of the children arrested were not allowed to be in the interviews," Irby said in a memo Monday to the police chief, who makes $55,000 a year and oversees seven officers.
He went on to say in the memo: "I am also having a great deal of difficulty understanding why the arresting officer made a physical arrest when he could have simply taken a report, gotten witnesses written statements and filed all with the State Attorney's office for a formal decision on whether the children need to be detained and prosecuted."
Neither Foster nor his attorney, Joseph Blitch, could be reached for comment.
Irby said the chief had admitted that parents weren't allowed in the interview room, which went against rules put in place by a former city manager after a similar incident in 2004 when Umatilla police had questioned an 8-year-old boy in a sexual-abuse incident without the parents' knowledge.
The boy and two others in his second-grade class were read their Miranda rights and asked to give taped and written statements about the incident in which the girl told her mother she was held down on the playground by two boys and fondled by a third during recess at Umatilla Elementary School. Foster said at the time that parents weren't summoned because officers aren't required by law to call them when questioning a juvenile.
Irby said in his memo, "Again, I believe you have failed miserably in your duties as a department director."
In addition to interviewing the boys without their parents in the most recent case, Irby added that police ignored a complaint from one of the boy's mothers that he was "hit on the side of the head with a rock which resulted in this retaliatory incident." Irby said officers also refused to take pictures of the boy's injury, which he called "gross incompetence."
Irby said the termination hearing has not been set. Foster's attorney requested it be delayed to allow him time to review the chief's personnel file and other documents, he added.
In 2011, Irby suspended Foster for 10 days without pay after a former officer complained in an exit interview that the chief played online games on the department's only computer during work hours, secluded himself from officers and sent them to run personal errands.
The chief had defended himself in a response submitted Irby, saying he only played games during his lunch break and admitted to asking an officer to collect rent from one of his tenants as a personal favor. He also denied being unreachable to officers.
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