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Two Northwest Florida agencies on The Atlantic's "Most Notorious Law Enforcement Agencies" list
NORTHWEST FLORIDA -- Two local law enforcement agencies are at the top of a scathing list. The Washington, DC-based magazine, The Atlantic, recently published an article that labels the Escambia County Sheriff's Office, "Trigger happy and racist."
It also labels the Crestview Police Department a, "Violent vice squad".
The article is headlined, "A Visitor's Guide to Florida's Most Notorious Law Enforcement Agencies". In it, the more than 150 year-old magazine lists seven agencies in the state, putting the Escambia County Sheriff's Office at number one. It cites last month's shooting of Roy Middleton and the sheriff's reaction to the case. It also references the incident when deputies shot and killed a dog at a home on Flynn Drive.The Atlantic isn't alone, citing another article that's critical of the sheriff by Slate.com.
In response, Sheriff David Morgan, said, "Words are harmful. There are limits on the First Amendment. You know, the classic example is you can't stand up in a crowded theater and yell, 'Fire'."
Sheriff Morgan says he would put his agency's record up against any law enforcement agency's record in the United States.
"Since I've been sheriff we've responded to 1.3 million calls for service in four-and-a-half years," Morgan said, "Only 24 of those calls were alleged racial profiling or that someone was stopped or questioned because of their race. All of those cases have been cleared during the Department of Justice investigation."
Voters we spoke with had mixed reactions to the articles criticizing the sheriff's office.
"They need to mind their own business," said Allen Ellington, of Escambia County, "Racist? No. Maybe a little trigger happy...But then again I can't really opinionate on that because I wasn't there. I don't know if that guy looked like he was reachin' for a gun."
Jonathan Floyd, another voter, said, "They doing all right with me. You can see a lot of un-justice and unfair stuff goin' 'round this town."
Crestview's police department came in third on The Atlantic's list. That ranking is attributed to the racketeering charges against former police major, Joseph Floyd. His trial is ongoing.
Crestview Police Chief Tony Taylor took office last year after his predecessor was fired. He says he's not shocked by the criticism.
"When I came in we had no system of accepting and investigating formal complaints," Taylor said, "We do now. We're doing what we can to move this agency forward, but we're going to have to go through this rough period here."
The Crestview Police Department is looking to get reaction from the public. It's holding a "Coffee with a Cop" event on August 28 at 8:00 AM at the Tropical Palm restaurant in Crestview.
You can read The Atlantic article by clicking here.