A Florida police officer on the force for 12 years has resigned after being accused of using the police department’s confidential database as his personal dating service, contacting at least 150 women to ask them out.
Bradenton police chief Melanie Bevan held a press conference last Thursday to discuss the case of Sgt. Leonel Marines, who she says “cast a dark shadow on our law enforcement profession.” The investigation into Marines’s behavior began in June 2018, Bevan said, when the department received a citizen complaint from “an adult female and her parents.”
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After a brief encounter in a parking lot with the young woman, Marines began following her in his police cruiser all the way to her parents’ residence, making her uneasy, according to Bevan. He allegedly said he was there regarding a domestic matter and asked to see the woman, but her parents became suspicious of his intentions and refused to let their daughter come to the door despite Marines’s insistence. They then requested the officer’s name and supervisor information, but he left without producing it.
Responding to the family’s subsequent call to the police department, a watch commander on duty was able to identify the officer as Marines. When asked for his side of the story, the sergeant said he followed the woman to her residence “because one of her headlights was out and he thought maybe she was impaired,” said Bevan.
When authorities compared the two drastically different stories, red flags went up and they launched a full investigation. Audits of Marines’s driver’s license, vehicle registration record use and patrol activity revealed discrepancies between the people he had been conducting database queries on and the ones he was actually involved in investigating.
“A very, very clear trend of focusing on female versus male names emerged,” according to Bevan.
At the beginning of the investigation, authorities pulled Marines from patrol activities and assigned him to desk duty; at this point, he had already been working as a supervisor. But as the evidence against Marines mounted, he was finally stripped of his badge, gun and uniforms and put on administrative leave. All told, he had conducted more than 700 “questionable” database inquiries from as far back as 2012, the investigation uncovered.
Marines resigned on Oct. 30, 2018, but the Bradenton Police Department continued their research, locating and interviewing 150 potential paramours who had been improperly targeted by the sergeant via social media, cold telephone calls,and visits to their home.
“From there, a smaller subset was identified in which we were clearly able to show that Marines had engaged in negative and inappropriate contact with them,” said Bevan, “while presenting himself as a Bradenton police officer both on and off duty.”
Bevan described Marines as “very persistent and successful at times” in securing dates with the women, who were primarily Hispanic. “Of course it goes without saying that this is not what officers should be doing with their access to information or with their time,” said Bevan, who put five full-time investigators on the case, resulting in thousands of hours of work to “leave no stoned unturned.”
Ultimately, investigators accused Marines of “numerous administrative violations involving gross misconduct,” Bevan said, “to include misuse of criminal justice information, violations of our record security policy and sex on duty.”
She concluded that the sergeant would have been fired as a result of the investigation had he not already resigned. “This is truly a disturbing situation for me as chief,” she added, noting that she has personally met with most of the 150 women contacted by Marines “in an effort to help them regain their trust.”
The Bradenton Police Department’s internal investigation has been officially closed, and the case has now been turned over to the FBI and is an active, open criminal investigation. As such, Bevan has declined to provide further information.
“The FBI has indicated that doing so could compromise their ongoing investigation,” she said, though she released the officer’s headshot in hopes that more targets or anyone with more information will come forward.
A woman identifying herself as Marines’s wife contacted the New York Post to reveal that she is in the process of divorcing the disgraced sergeant, and claims to have known nothing of his behavior.
Yahoo Lifestyle was unable to reach Marines for comment.
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