Clermont, FL —
A Clermont police officer arrested Wednesday on charges of perjury is accused of lying on 16 reports, which has so far resulted in five cases being dismissed, officials said.
Following a months-long investigation by the Florida Department of Law Enforcement, Officer Cecil Garrett was arrested Wednesday on five counts of perjury by false written declaration.
Garrett was placed on paid administrative leave on March 10 after the department received multiple complaints about the officer, Clermont police Chief Charles Broadway said.
Garrett turned himself in to authorities Wednesday and has been placed on administrative leave without pay pending the outcome of the case against him, Broadway said.
“As of March 9 of this year, the State Attorney’s Office ceased using Cecil Garrett as a witness in the prosecution of any criminal case,” Broadway said during a Thursday news conference.
Garrett was hired by the department in December 2005.
“This arrest stems from a series of isolated incidents that were dealt with swiftly and expeditiously,” Broadway said. “It is in no way reflective of the hard-working men and women of the Clermont Police Department and their commitment to serving the public with integrity and professionalism.”
Garrett allegedly told investigators that he knew the people he pulled over had either a suspended or revoked license, investigators said.
But when they looked into the cases, investigators said they found that Garrett didn’t look up the drivers before or after making a stop.
John Emens’ run-in with Garrett landed him in jail four years ago.
“I was just driving through town. Just came back from the store and he pulled me over,” he said.
Emens pleaded no contest to driving with a suspended license, served four days in jail and had to pay a fine.
His case is one of the initial 16 from 2011-2016 in which investigators said Garrett lied.
In this instance, Garrett wrote on the affidavit that he checked Emens tag through the driver and vehicle identification database, or DAVID, to view the owner’s picture to make sure it matches the current driver.
While Garrett’s arrest and the allegations can be a cause to reopen some of the cases, WFTV legal analyst Bill Sheaffer said it will likely still be difficult to prove the arrests were not warranted.
“If an officer had personal knowledge that an individual’s license was suspended, certainly that’s probable cause to stop them,” Sheaffer said.
He advised anyone involved in the cases in question to get legal representation.
“They need to see a lawyer, because a lawyer can sort out whether or not they have any remedy,” Sheaffer said.
Wednesday’s arrest was not the first time Garrett was accused of putting false information in a police report.
In 2011, he was fired from the Clermont Police Department on allegations that he lied and trumped up charges against a driver during a traffic stop.
An arbitrator ruled that he didn’t do anything wrong, and Garrett was rehired more than a year later.