By Kevin Deutsch
A Margate Police lieutenant secretly recorded a meeting of the department’s command staff, triggering an internal investigation that revealed internal strife at the agency and found two high-ranking cops violated department policy, police records show.
Lt. Robert Kriplean surreptitiously recorded the non-public gathering of department brass, held March 10 in the vacant city commission chambers and attended by seven lieutenants, three captains, and Chief of Police Jonathan Shaw, according to documents obtained by Coral Springs Talk, which detail findings of the Margate Police Department’s Internal Investigations Unit.
The probe by Sergeant Paul Kostick found Kriplean violated departmental general orders against surreptitious recording, conduct unbecoming, and violating the department’s general proficiency standard.
None of the meeting’s attendees agreed to be recorded, and Kriplean never sought their permission, the investigation found.
Kriplean denied knowing the recording made with his iPhone violated department policy, or that state law forbids recording someone without their consent, citing a sign posted in the commission chambers that says “Attention: audio and video equipment in use. This meeting is being live-streamed,” according to the documents.
The signage is meant to serve as notice to attendees of commission meetings, not of police command staff meetings, the internal probe found.
Kostick conferred with prosecutors, who found no crime had been committed by Kriplean.
“The investigation revealed that your actions have created a significant lack of trust with other commanders in this agency…I am greatly disappointed and deeply concerned by your behavior,” Shaw wrote in a July 8 memo to Kriplean, notifying him of Kostick’s findings. “I intend to hold you accountable for your conduct. Your actions in this instance will not be tolerated at any level of the organization.”
“Furthermore, these actions from a high-ranking police official sets a poor example for other members of this agency.”
Shaw recommended a 20-day unpaid suspension for Kriplean and told the lieutenant he would be relieved of his command “over all specialty assignments, specifically the Special Response Team and the K-9 Unit effective immediately.”
The disciplinary action, Shaw wrote, still required final approval from Margate’s city manager.
Kostick’s investigation found Kriplean used his phone’s Airdrop function to share his recording of the command meeting with Margate Police Lt. David Young, who was also found to have violated department policy.
In an interview with Kostick, Kriplean defended making the recording, stating he anticipated colleagues would verbally attack him at the meeting and that he wanted an accurate record of what transpired.
“I had a couple of meetings with the chief of police, where he stated…the meeting was essentially going to be resolved around me, per se, and how other supervisors felt about me,” said Kriplean.
According to Kriplean, Shaw said he was going to steer the conversation at the meeting “to get them to speak up about things that…they felt…I was doing wrong.”
“So I felt that…hey, it seemed like everybody was kind of against me at this meeting, including the chief, because it seemed like he didn’t really have my back…So I thought, well if everybody seems to be against me…then I wanted to have some type of…recording or some kind of…evidence, about something either I was saying, or wasn’t saying,” Kriplean continued. “Because again, if people are constantly making things up about me…[Shaw said] several of the things that have been recently going on in the department, were being blamed on me, personally, so I felt…well, I wanted to have some kind of recollection of what was being said during that meeting for my own purposes. So, in case somebody was making up lies against me, I could go to the chief and say…this is not an accurate representation; here’s what was truly said.”
The documents show the internal strife preceding the meeting centered on the relationship between Kriplean and Lieutenant Efrain Suarez, who “had a very contentious interaction during the meeting,” Kostick wrote.
Young, the lieutenant with who Kriplean shared his secretly-recorded audio, provided more insight into what happened during the March command meeting, telling Kostick: “I wanted to listen to [the recording]. [Kriplean] said that people were trying to put words in his mouth, that he threatened Lieutenant Suarez in that meeting. And that he said he never did threaten him, that [Kriplean] just said, ‘you’re a liar!’ When Lieutenant Suarez said, ‘don’t call me a liar!’ [Kriplean] said, ‘or what?’ I just wanted to hear that…to make sure I was remembering things the way they actually happened.”
Kostick wrote that Kriplean should have been aware secret recordings were forbidden, in part because a Margate Police Officer was fired in 2013 for multiple policy violations that included secretly recording conversations with supervisors.
In recommending disciplinary measures for Kriplean, Shaw noted the lieutenant’s prior disciplinary record reflected six letters of reprimand spanning 2004 to 2006, including issues involving the use of force and sick leave abuse.
In 2o06, Kriplean was involved in a high-speed chase and gun battle that left a man dead and wounded a Margate mother of four. Broward and Palm Beach County deputies also opened fire during the incident.
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- Kevin Deutsch is an award-winning crime journalist and author. A graduate of Florida International University, Kevin has worked on staff at The Miami Herald, New York Daily News, and The Palm Beach Post.
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