DAVIE, FL — A Florida police chief has been suspended after being accused by the Florida State Fraternal Order of Police of making homophobic remarks concerning the state’s first law enforcement officer to die from the new coronavirus.
Davie Police Chief Dale Engle was placed on administrative leave over the weekend pending an investigation into his remarks, which “intimated that it was because of his homosexual lifestyle” that the deputy contracted and died from the illness, according to a letter that was sent from the labor organization to town officials.
“The allegations will be investigated in accordance with the town’s Equal Employment Opportunity compliance policy by outside counsel,” Davie Administator Richard J. Lemack confirmed in a statement. “The town will have no further comment until the investigation is completed to protect the integrity of all involved.”
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Broward Sheriff’s Office Deputy Shannon Bennett was a 12-year veteran of the agency, who passed away from the virus on April 3.
Engle was accused in the letter from the Florida State FOP of telling his officers in a patrol briefing that “deputy Bennett contracted and died from the virus because he was a homosexual who attended homosexual sexual events,” the letter stated. Davie is a community in Broward County.
Mike Tucker of the Florida State Fraternal Order of Police, which has 23,000 members in Florida said the chief’s remarks didn’t sit well with some of his officers.
“This troubled some of the officers and members that were present and that was brought to our attention,” said Tucker, the organization’s chief of staff. “We understand these are allegations and our job as the FOP is to bring those allegations forward, which is what we’ve done. We’ve notified the city that we believe there should be an investigation. We support the chief’s right to due process and we support the chief’s right to a full and impartial investigation.”
Brandon Wolf of Equality Florida, the largest LGBTQ civil rights organization in Florida, told Patch the chief should not be in charge of public safety if the allegations are true.
“The comments that chief Engle made, as alleged, are vile. They’re totally unacceptable and they are extremely dangerous,” Wolf said. “We are in a time of national crisis. We need our public servants and our leaders to be standing with us.”
Bennett, who was 39, had been a school resource officer at Deerfield Deach Elementary School.
In an internal email obtained by WSVN-TV, Engle later told officers that his comments were not meant to be derogatory.
“These comments were relative to COVID-19 and personal protective equipment,” Engle said in the email. “My intent was to provide as much information to personnel as possible. If my comments were taken out of context, they were not intended to be derogatory.”
Watch below as the Broward Sheriff’s Office observed a moment of silence to honor Bennett:
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