No Charges Filed Against North Bay Village Police Officers in Hurricane Party Incident

No charges will be filed against police officers accused of partying during Hurricane Irma and that includes a supervisor seen using a cup to cover a surveillance camera in the room where the alleged party happened.

In May, NBC 6 Investigators first obtained and broadcast the video that was recorded inside North Bay Village hall.

The video shows a police supervisor, Lt. James McCready, inside the building with a cooler. A fellow officer filed an internal affairs complaint that the cooler contained beer. He said McCready and other officers drank alcohol while the hurricane blew through South Florida. McCready is seen on the video using a red plastic cup to block the camera's view of a room where the officer said the party took place.

North Bay Village Police Internal Affairs investigated the complaint. They found the camera was blocked for nine hours. There is no video to show what was in the cooler or what happened in the room where the camera was blocked.

As a result of the investigation, McCready and five other officers were given reprimands and docked accrued leave time. McCready was also removed from the hurricane landfall team for a year.

Village officials also asked the Miami-Dade State Attorney's Office to determine if a crime was committed. Their concern was that blocking the camera could constitute "public records destruction."

An assistant state attorney "respectfully declined" to file any charges writing in an email that blocking the camera was "not a violation of public records unless it was a public meeting." The email went on to say that since some officers were sleeping at the station, "it would not be inappropriate to seek some level of privacy as they slept/changed clothes."

McCready told NBC 6 Investigators that he had no comment about the case.

In an odd twist, McCready is currently serving as the acting police chief in North Bay Village.

In a statement, the village attorney, Norman Powell wrote, " Lt. McCready will serve as our Village's Acting Police Chief from Wednesday July 11, 2018 until Monday July 16, 2018. On Monday, Lt. Brian Collins will serve as the Village's Acting Chief during the period Mr. Velken serves as our Interim Manager and the Village conducts a search for the new Manager. Mr. Velken will manage and oversee all of the Village's Departments, including the Police Department."

A former prosecutor who rode out Irma in his North Bay Village condo understands why no charges were filed.

"There isn't a statute here on the books that would actually cover this particular incident as disturbing as it is, the camera is covered up," said Herbert Walker III. "It's disturbing. You want everybody, particularly law enforcement, to be on their p's and q's and be ready to go."

Walker says Florida law should be changed.

"It would seem the technology of today has outstripped and surpassed the statutes that we have on the books," Walker said.

NBC 6 Investigators contacted the two lawmakers who represent North Bay Village. Rep. David Richardson declined repeated requests to speak about the incident and if the law should change.

Sen. Daphne Campbell also declined an on-camera interview but said she's troubled by what she saw. She says the incident could lead her to propose a bill that would protect the images on surveillance cameras. She said with the legislative session still a long way off, there's still time to come up with specific rules and try to implement them next year.

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