Florida's North Port Police Dept. faces mounting criticism over handling of Brian Laundrie case
The search for Brian Laundrie has thrust a small police department in Florida under the microscope and criticism is mounting.
North Port police officers returned to a large Florida wildlife refuge Tuesday to continue the search for Laundrie, who went missing after being named a person of interest in the case of his missing fiancé, Long Island native Gabby Petito.
An autopsy Tuesday confirmed that the body found in Wyoming was that of Petito. The manner of her death was deemed a homicide by the coroner, while the cause is pending final autopsy results.
LIVE BLOG: Updates from the Gabby Petito case
So far, there has been no sign of Laundrie, just questions growing online over the agency's handling of the highly publicized disappearance.
The North Port police chief says investigators are working around the clock on the case.
The latest post on the North Port Police Department's Facebook page has more than 1,000 comments, many of them critical over the initial lack of surveillance on Laundrie and his family. One post labeled the investigation an embarrassment, but is all the criticism well-founded?
"It is very well-founded," says Pete Gleason, a former NYPD officer turned high-profile defense attorney. "It is outrageous he was allowed to slip through a very bifurcated dragnet. The North Port Police Department is on the hook."
Gleason is slamming the North Port PD's response after Laundrie left Wyoming and returned home to Florida where he quickly vanished, despite being a person of interest in the case.
"They should have had him under surveillance very early on," says Gleason.
This is not the first time the small Florida police department has been in the hot seat. The Turn to Tara team did a deep dive and discovered a pattern of turbulence going back two decades.
There have been eight incidents at the department, including the decertification of five officers to drug use, fraud, domestic violence, perjury and having sex on the job.
In 2017, a former police chief stepped down after his taxpayer funded education at a university came under fire, and one of his officers committed suicide after being brought up on sexual battery charges.
Gleason says the behavior likely left a stain on the department.
"It's like a cancer. You can cut the tumor out, if the bad officer is a tumor, you can remove it, but it has already metastasized," says Gleason. "There are many connections to the individual."
North Port police have fired back to growing scrutiny by issuing a statement that reads in part, "We understand how this looks to those who simply don't understand the law or have all the information. The truth and facts about the good work the NPPD has done will come out."