Traffic stop turns up four kilos of cocaine
On July 3, 2019 I submitted a request for public records of the Orlando Police Department ("OPD"). After much negotiation, on November 29, 2019 I paid the City of Orlando $2,143.32 in fees.
Some background: while the Florida Public Records Act does not specify a time limit within which requests much be handled, the Act requires that the records custodian respond in good faith and permit access to non-exempt records. The Florida Supreme Court has held that “[t]he only delay permitted [under the Act] is the limited reasonable time allowed the custodian to retrieve the record and delete those portions of the record the custodian asserts are exempt.” (Morris Pub. Group, LLC v. State, 154 So. 3d 528, 533 (Fla. 1st DCA 2015).
I paid at the end of November 2019. When do you think the records came in?
That "limited reasonable time" language? It's wishful thinking. The first record didn't show up until March 19, 2021. No joke. And that only happened after I placed the City on notice that Real World Media intended to sue the City to compel the production of all records responsive to my request.
Months later, after production continued at a slow-to-hardly-existent pace, the City declared their production of records complete.
My request was based in part on reliable information about OPD drug seizures, yet OPD was claiming that they had no records of those seizures.
Unexpectedly, it turned out they were right. There were no records of those drug seizures. Because they had never happened. My information was wrong.
But keep reading.
In part, my request was for records relating to drug interdictions where the street value of the seized drugs was greater than $100,000. I was confident that such seizures had occurred because OPD's 2018 Annual Report said so. Specifically, it said that their Tactical Anti-Crime Unit ("TAC") had seized — among other things — 368 pounds of cocaine, 10,360 pounds of cannabis, and 114 pounds of heroin.
As I wrote to an OPD contact: "There are ~453 grams in a pound, and the DOJ thinks a gram of street heroin sells for (being conservative here) $400. If my math and assumptions are right, a seizure of one pound of heroin far exceeds the $100k threshold. What am I missing?"
I was missing the fact that OPD's 2018 annual report had overstated the Department's drug seizures by more than 450 times.
"Hi Jay, I was able to confirm yesterday that the 2018 Annual Report had an error in it. The numbers reflected in the report were in grams, not lbs. We are currently working to correct the report. I definitely apologize for any confusion that the incorrect report created in this request."
"Hi Alex, Thank you for following up. You may already be aware of this, but FYI the 2016 and 2017 annual report both reflect TAC seizures of “thousands of pounds of drugs” — putting TAC well ahead of OPD’s Drug Enforcement Division.
Is someone looking into whether this was more than just a mistake? It’s hard enough to believe that the same error was made for three consecutive years, let alone without anyone noticing."
"Thank you for bringing 2016 and 2017 to my attention. What happened in 2018 was that TAC sent their numbers for the year to the civilian employee who prepares the Annual Report. However, on the form they sent over, there were no units listed. So for, example, “368.5 cocaine” instead of “368.5 grams of cocaine.” The civilian employee who then prepared the report mistakenly thought it was pounds. I have just reached out to see if that was also the case in 2016 and 2017. I will let you know what I find out."
"I was able to confirm that the same issue happened in 2016 and 2017. The problem again was caused by data being sent without units and then the person who compiled the report assumed the wrong units. It again should have been in grams and not pounds. The reports are being corrected."
I recently received the corrected annual reports. They had all overstated TAC drug seizures by more than 450.
This footage is from one of the few truly huge seizures that actually happened.
Correction: I am a moron. The substance found was cocaine. Its ultimate weight was 4,282 grams.
UPDATE: On November 6, 2019, Clinton James Dunston pleaded no contest to a negotiated charge of cocaine trafficking, over 200 grams but less than 400 grams. He was sentenced to a mandatory seven years in Florida DOC, and $928 in various fees, payable at a rate of $30 per month upon his release.
This is not Dunston's first rodeo. In 2008, he was convicted of drug conspiracy (cocaine), and in 2012 he was convicted of cocaine trafficking, fleeing, and DWLS. Did I mention his 1996 conviction for cocaine trafficking? Sensing a theme here...
Surprise: he actually did work for the company he claimed.
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