Davie Police Chief Dale Engle has been placed on administrative leave after he suggested that a Broward Sheriff’s Office deputy’s death from COVID-19 was somehow linked to his “homosexual” lifestyle, according to a complaint filed to town administration by a state police union that represents the officers.
Mike Tucker, chief of staff of the Florida Fraternal Order of Police, sent a letter to the Davie town manager, which brought up an April 7 incident involving Engle.
Tucker’s letter said that officers and service aides who raised concerns about contracting the coronavirus were sent to a back parking lot where Engle “allegedly berated them, and yelled about a ‘…backstory’ which proclaimed that Deputy Bennett contracted and died from the virus because he was a ‘homosexual who attended homosexual sexual events.”
“He intimated that it was because of the homosexual lifestyle that Deputy Bennett first contracted a serious underlying disease which aggravated the Covid-19 virus and lead to his death,” the letter read.
“Multiple officers expressed shock at the way that the chief not only conducted the briefing but obviously of his remarks, which left most of the officers speechless,” he said. “Really utter shock that the chief would attempt to minimize the risk to everyone and especially first responders by trying to draw a link between what happened to Deputy Bennett tragically and his sexual orientation.”
The remarks allegedly came four days after Bennet, a 12-year veteran at the sheriff’s office, died of COVID-19.
Saturday night, a statement from Davie’s Town Administrator Richard J. Lemack confirmed that Engle had been placed on leave.
“As of April 11, 2020, Police Chief Dale Engle was placed on Administrative leave pending further review of allegations brought forward by the Fraternal Order of Police. The allegations will be investigated in accordance with the Town’s Equal Employment Opportunity compliance policy by outside counsel. The Town will have no further comment until the investigation is completed to protect the integrity of all involved.”
Tucker said if the allegations are true, “it’s obviously extremely disturbing.”
Bennett, 39, is believed to be the first law enforcement officer in Florida to die from the virus. He was beloved by his community and by the kids where he was a school resource officer in Deerfield Beach.
Tommy Reyes, the president of Miami’s Fraternal Order of Police — and a personal friend of Bennett — called Engle’s alleged tirade “disrespectful.”
“Shannon was my friend, a good man, and he loved his family, friends and his soon to be husband,” Reyes said. “Chief Engle’s comments are disrespectful not only to Shannon, but everyone who loved him.”
Bennett had just announced he was to marry in December.
“It was disrespectful to the entire LGBTQ community and his own officers,” Reyes continued. “He should be ashamed of himself for his lack of professionalism and compassion for others.”
The Broward Sheriff’s Office said he died “in the line of duty” and had been in the care of a local hospital since March 27.
“For any reference to be made to the tragic passing of one of our brothers at the Broward Sheriff’s Office is , if true, is absolutely not only unacceptable but is just shameful. And it’s not indicative of the professionals of the Town of Davie that we know,” said Tucker.