ORLANDO, FL — Orlando Police Department’s Tactical Anti-Crime Unit (“TAC”) was a street-level initiative that nominally focused on violent crime as well as crime trends identified by OPD crime analysts. Its practical reality was a group that operated out of undercover vehicles, spending most of its time conducting pretextual traffic stops. The kind that routinely uncover drugs and guns, and the kind that tend to piss people off for their perceived pettiness — particularly when the only violation turns out to be the minor traffic offense. Like in this video… where a TAC officer responds to allegations of “stereotyping” with a speeding ticket.
Pretextual stops are lawful. The constitutional reasonableness of a traffic stop does not depend on the motivations of the officers involved, as long as they had probable cause to conduct the traffic stop. They also mean that just about anyone can be stopped. Do you have a license plate frame on your car? The kind commonly installed by the dealership? If you drive your car in Florida, you are committing a violation. And it is settled law that the presence a license plate frame alone is enough to justify a traffic stop.
In a previous story involving TAC, we reported the following, verbatim:
“In 2018 TAC recovered 98 crime guns and 57 stolen vehicles, seizing 368 pounds of cocaine, 10,360 pounds of cannabis, and 194 pounds of heroin in the process. Yes, those are all supposed to be pounds. No, the numbers are not anomalous. In 2017 the unit recovered 107 crime guns, 70 stolen vehicles, made nearly 600 felony arrests and seized thousands of pounds of drugs.”
Those figures came straight from Orlando Police Department’s annual reports. And — as we also reported previously — every one of the drug seizure figures is wrong, overstating reality by more than 450 times.
We discovered OPD’s misrepresentation after we requested records associated with all incidents involving the seizure of drugs with a street value of more than $100,000… and there weren’t any.
That made no sense, given the figures in OPD’s annual reports.
It turned out that Orlando Police Department had — for three consecutive years — been stating TAC’s drug seizures in pounds, when the figure should have been in grams.
There are 453.59 grams in a pound. Which means that TAC’s drug seizures had been overstated by more than 450 times. Or to make it sound particularly bad: more than 45,000%.
If the annual reports were to be believed, TAC had somehow managed to seize more drugs than OPD’s Drug Enforcement Division. OPD’s position is that this was all a mistake. According to Police Legal Advisor Alex Karden,
“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.”
The same error was present in 2017 and 2016.
That it was a mistake is plausible. That no one noticed it for three consecutive years is a tougher pill to swallow.
After OPD confirmed our finding, the agency corrected and reissued its annual reports from 2016, 2017, and 2018.
On March 1, 2019, a Special Notice was issued by Chief of Police Orlando Rolón. Effective March 10, 2019, “The Special Enforcement Division will be created and will operate under the Investigative Services Bureau. DED, TAC, NPU, GIU, and FIU will be assigned to the Special Enforcement Section under the Special Enforcement Division.”
TAC no longer exists.
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