An independent review of an incident involving the University of Central Florida Police Department and a university professor found that, with one exception, officers acted lawfully and appropriately.
At the university’s request, the Orlando Police Department’s Professional Standards Division reviewed the Aug. 9 traffic stop involving UCF Police and Dr. Jennifer Vest, an assistant professor in the Philosophy Department. The report noted, among other allegations, that Vest said she was unlawfully stopped and searched and that officers treated her rudely and unprofessionally.
With one exception, the report notes that officers followed all state laws and university and department policies.
“We cooperated completely with OPD on its report, and I am pleased with its findings,” UCF Police Chief Richard Beary said. “Overall, our officers responded lawfully and according to their training. Where we can improve as individuals and as a department, we will do so.”
Orlando Police and UCF officials discussed the findings at a news conference Thursday. Click here to watch a video of the news conference.
According to the report, none of the four Orange County Fire Rescue employees on scene said they heard UCF Police officers call Vest a “liar,” “crackhead,” “drug user” or “criminal” as was alleged.
However, the report found that Officer Donnie Freeman violated UCF Police code when, in response to Dr. Vest’s repeated statements that she was a UCF professor, he said: “I don’t care who the hell you are, I’m going to treat you the same as everybody I … I deal with.”
Beary said Freeman is subject to possible disciplinary action, as UCF Police rules of conduct state that officers must perform their duties professionally and with respect for others.
The report also noted that OPD repeatedly asked Vest to participate in the review. However, the report said she never responded and was not interviewed.
Read the Orlando Police Department’s report here: https://bit.ly/ucf-opd-report.
Said UCF President John C. Hitt: “UCF is strongly committed to fostering safe and respectful learning and working environments for our students and staff and faculty members.”
UCF Technology Investment
Bill Merck, UCF’s vice president for Administration and Finance, said the OPD report noted that there is no audio or visual record of the Aug. 9 traffic stop. In response, UCF is evaluating equipping officers with video systems to record interactions.
Though he said the university will move forward at the earliest opportunity, Merck said a timetable for installation and equipment costs has yet to be determined.
“This investment will benefit officers and the campus community by providing visual and audio records of police interactions,” Merck said. “It benefits and protects everyone involved.”