Sunday, January 4, 2009

When bad things happen

Today there was an article in the Charlotte Sun discussing Sheriff John Davenport retiring after 31 years of service. See my thoughts at end of article.

Sheriff Davenport wraps up 31 year career
CHARLOTTE COUNTY -- John Davenport has never been one to seek attention.
He joined the Charlotte County Sheriff's Office 31 years ago as just another face in the crowd.
And that's how he wants to leave.
Davenport will retire from the agency this week without a party or the usual fanfare that follows a career law enforcement man.
"I have never felt very comfortable having the spotlight shined upon me, whether it be for good or bad," Davenport wrote in an e-mail to his staff last month. (He declined to be interviewed for this story.) "All I ever wanted was to do my job, do it well and leave it at that. I feel confident I have accomplished my goal."
Colleagues described Davenport as the quiet leader -- one who could restore calm from chaos.
"There was something very steady about John," said Sheriff-elect Bill Cameron, who will be sworn in Tuesday. "He's going to be missed."
Davenport, 56, was hired in 1978 as a jailer (which now would be a corrections officer).
Within a year, the New York native was promoted to jail commander, although it was anything but a desk job.
Every week, Davenport retrieved food supplies in town for the jail population, which rarely exceeded 20 bodies. In addition, he regularly drove inmates to court.
In 1989, Davenport became a district commander, where he remained four years before being put in charge of communications. His ascension through the ranks continued in 1995, when he was named chief deputy under then-sheriff Richard Worch.
In 2001, Davenport returned as jail commander. The move was temporary, as Cameron named Davenport second-in-command upon his appointment by former Gov. Jeb Bush two years later.
Davenport ran for sheriff in 2004, as Cameron agreed not to seek office as a condition of his appointment. Davenport won the general election with roughly 72 percent of the vote.
However, his rise to the top didn't change the way he approached the job, friends say.
A man of strict routine, Davenport began each morning inside a gym. Like clockwork, he would be seated at his desk at 6:30 a.m., answering e-mails and outlining his day with meticulous detail.
"John is probably the most disciplined person I've meet," said Maj. Dan Libby.
During his career, Davenport started the civilian police academy, the GED program at the jail, and DARE within the school district.
He spent many hours at the elementary schools reading to children. And he never missed a DARE graduation.
"He took a personal interest in the school system," said Dave Gayler, Charlotte County Public Schools superintendent.
That interest in others carried over to work, where Davenport was known to bring in deputies and, at times, inmates, unofficially, to ask about things and about how the agency could improve.
Off the clock, he mentored a girl through her entire school career as a volunteer with Big Brothers Big Sisters.
"He truly set the example for civic leadership," Libby said.
Despite these accomplishments, Davenport also will be remembered for the agency's internal investigation of a 911 call in the Denise Amber Lee murder case.
The 21-year-old North Port woman was kidnapped and murdered Jan. 17, 2008. Earlier that evening, Charlotte County dispatchers received a call from a witness who reported seeing what appeared to be a child slapping the back window of a Chevrolet Camaro stopped at a traffic light.
Two dispatchers were suspended and required to complete remedial training, but the measures haven't eased family concerns.
Davenport said he has moved on, and Cameron declined to comment.
In retirement, Davenport plans to remain in Charlotte County for another year before selling his house. The goal is to move to upstate New York, where he owns 27 acres.
Once there, he plans to remain anonymous.
"Hunting, the outdoors and solitude have always been my passion, and I now hope to live out that passion as a reward for 31 years of service," he said in the office memo.
Staff Writer

I have very mixed feelings about the article. Apparently John Davenport has worked hard these past 31 years and much of his work is indeed commendable. I respect him for so many years of service.

I find it sad, however, that at the end of his career just when he was getting ready to retire that our 9-1-1 center not only failed Denise but it failed him, too. Those persons directly responsible for the mistakes in the 9-1-1 center that night let so many people down.

And, he, John Davenport "not wanting to ruin anyone elses lives" (his words not mine) didn't nearly reprimand certain people they way he should have. Some he chose not to reprimand at all. He then chose to try and sweep it under the rug so that his second in command, Bill Cameron, communication's chief that night could get elected. He issued a convoluted I/A report where so many questions weren't asked and then said we have no issues because the FDLE (Florida Department of Law Enforcement) oversaw the entire investigation. A complete all out lie. The FDLE sat in on very little of it and didn't ask a single question.

That's sad. After 31 years of service, most of it commendable, instead of retiring with the honor he should have, his career has been tainted by this travesty.

But, you know, it's his own doing. He chose to sweep it under the rug and deem it nothing more than a "missed opportunity". He chose to endorse Bill Cameron without addressing the issues that night.

If only he had come clean and explained what happened, how it happened, why it happened and how they were going to fix the problems, I wouldn't be writing this today.

I'm glad he can "move on". At least someone can. Bill Cameron is not going to be able to because we will not let this rest.

I'll never stop asking "why didn't your department let the NPPD know about Kowalski's call as soon as it happened?" "Why didn't your department follow up with Ms Kowalski?" "Why wasn't Cameron, Roguska and others interviewed in the Internal Affairs investigation?" "What else went wrong on your watch that we don't know about?" "Why wouldn't you help our family in getting past these issues and help us move on?"

So, move on, Sheriff Davenport. I'm glad someone can.

I commend you for your service to Charlotte County. I'm disappointed that you wouldn't fix or address the blatant problems in our 9-1-1 center this past year. And you had the audacity to run a campaign for a man (Bill Cameron) who publicly stated during his campaign "we have excellent dispatchers" and "our 9-1-1 center has no issues."

Sadly, it seems to me you are retiring more as a politician than as a public servant.

PS I speak for myself and as to my feelings and for no one else. But, I'm sure there are many who feel the same.