By Francisco Alvarado, FloridaBulldog.org
Lauderhill police’s top brass took 35 days to place a controversial lieutenant on administrative leave after he was accused of harassing two female subordinates at an after-work, booze-filled party at a local watering hole.
The lag in time from when an anonymous complaint was filed against Lt. Michael Bigwood and when he was sent home with full pay has left women under his command with little confidence that he will face any serious investigation or punishment, according to a Lauderhill police detective who spoke to Florida Bulldog on condition of anonymity.
“They don’t believe the city is handling this complaint in an appropriate way or that it is being taken seriously,” the officer said. “They fear that they will face retaliation if no adverse action is taken against him.”
Their suspicions are warranted. During his 19 years with the small police force in North Broward County, Bigwood was twice fired for incidents involving sexually inappropriate and violent behavior toward women, including his former spouse. Both times Bigwood won his job back through arbitration.
After his last termination in 2015 was rescinded and he returned to work, Bigwood scored plum promotions, most recently as the lieutenant heading Lauderhill police’s criminal investigations division. The troubled cop earns $122,269 a year.
“He kept moving up the ranks despite his past,” the police detective said.
NO COMMENT FROM BIGWOOD, POLICE BRASS
Bigwood did not respond to four Florida Bulldog voicemails left on his cellphone seeking comment. Lauderhill Police Chief Constance Stanley and Deputy Chief Allen Siegel, Bigwood’s direct supervisor, also did not respond to emails and phone messages seeking comment.
Lauderhill police spokesman Lt. Michael Santiago said the department’s leadership would not comment because of an open investigation into Bigwood’s latest alleged misconduct. The investigation is being conducted by the private law firm of Weiss Serota Helfman Cole & Bierman.
Santiago provided a press statement from Lauderhill spokesperson Laurie Johnson, acknowledging the city was forced into giving Bigwood his job back based on arbitration rulings in his favor.
“Lieutenant Bigwood was ordered to be fully reinstated to his prior positions and was therefore eligible for promotions thereafter,” Johnson said. “With respect to the present matter, we await the findings of the investigation.”
Aside from a written reprimand for disobeying a direct order to stop chasing a suspect in a stolen vehicle shortly after being hired in 2002, Bigwood was an exemplary officer during his first eight years on the job, including earning his sergeant stripes in 2006, according to his personnel file.
But in 2010, Bigwood’s ascent tumbled amid allegations of inappropriate behavior with police and civilian members of the opposite sex. He was placed on administrative leave and subsequently fired following an Internal Affairs probe that concluded he violated the police department’s code of conduct. The investigation concluded that he had sent offending emails from his city-issued email address to a female subordinate and also sent a sexually explicit text on his city-issued cellphone with a photo of his genitalia to a female confidential informant.
BIGWOOD’S GENITALIA PIC
“Sending an unsolicited text message picture of your genitalia to a member of the very community you have been sworn to protect, resulting in a complaint being lodged by that person to the department, is precisely the kind of conduct that the policy seeks to prevent,” Bigwood’s termination letter states. “There can be no sincere argument that sending a picture of your genitalia when she did not request or want such communications from you was proper.”
At the time Bigwood was president of Lauderhill’s Fraternal Order of Police chapter, the union representing the department’s rank-and-file officers. The union filed a grievance to overturn his termination.
During two arbitration hearings in June 2011, Bigwood presented evidence showing that the female employee told internal investigators that while she found the emails inappropriate, she did not feel threatened or harassed by him. He also presented statements from the confidential informant to an Internal Affairs detective in which she admitted that she engaged in flirtatious texts with Bigwood prior to him sending the photo of his penis. She also said she had lied about not ever meeting Bigwood in person when in fact she did on one occasion, according to the arbitrator’s report in the personnel file.
Arbitrator Stanley Sergent concurred with Bigwood that the offending emails sent to the female co-worker were not sufficient grounds for termination. Sergent also concluded that the FOP “advanced some valid defenses” on behalf of Bigwood that “raise some serious doubts as to whether [termination] is a fair and just penalty” for sending the sexually explicit text to the confidential informant.
Sergent determined that firing Bigwood was an extreme decision since Lauderhill had not afforded him an opportunity to correct his behavior. The arbitrator ordered Bigwood be reinstated with his full seniority, but without back pay and benefits.
MARTIAL STRIFE LEADS TO SECOND FIRING
Bigwood’s misconduct with women was even worse at home. His ex-wife, Kami Jean Floyd, filed for domestic violence restraining orders against him in 2010 and 2014, according to Broward County family court records. A judge granted the first one two months after Floyd filed to divorce Bigwood. A year later, the temporary injunction was dismissed at her request, and the couple dissolved their marriage, court dockets show.
On Dec. 1, 2014, Floyd filed for another restraining order against Bigwood. In her petition, Floyd alleged that four years earlier her then-husband pulled a firearm on her, threatening to kill her and their children. About a year after their divorce, Floyd tried to mend the relationship for the sake of their kids. Bigwood was also getting therapy and taking antidepressant medication, the petition states.
The reconciliation was short-lived and Bigwood fell into another violent spiral, Floyd’s affidavit alleged. “In July 2014, he grabbed me and threw me out of his pick-up truck, throwing me to the ground and causing bruising on my legs,” Floyd wrote. “During the same time, while my seven-year-old daughter was sitting on my lap, Michael stood over us, not allowing us to get up and screamed violently.”
After leaving him again, she accused her ex-husband of incessantly harassing her, including calling her more than 50 times and sending her over 100 texts that included calling her a “whore, cunt and slut,” her petition states.
Broward County Judge Michael G. Kaplan granted Floyd’s restraining order that included a condition that he was only allowed to carry a firearm while at work. It didn’t stop Bigwood from allegedly stalking his former spouse.
Broward sheriff deputies arrested him on March 18, 2015 for violating the injunction. The previous evening, Bigwood showed up at Floyd’s home, banged on her front door and demanded to speak to her, according to the arrest report. He had also repeatedly called and texted Floyd prior to showing up to her residence uninvited.
With investigators listening in, Bigwood admitted to his actions in a phone call with Floyd the following day, the arrest report states. “The defendant admitted he had been drinking alcohol last night. He also apologized to the victim several times during the call for arriving at her residence unannounced.”
As a condition of his release, Bigwood had to wear an ankle monitor, court records show. On June 30, 2015, he pleaded no contest to a misdemeanor trespassing charge. By then, the restraining order against him had expired.
A month later, Lauderhill fired Bigwood on the grounds that he had violated the police department’s code of conduct, according to the second termination letter in his personnel file.
“As a law enforcement officer, you are held to a higher standard of behavior by society,” the letter states. “You took an oath of office and are expected to comply with professional codes of ethics and applicable laws, rules, and regulations. Simply put, By virtue of your actions, you have failed to comply with these standards.”
ANOTHER FIRING NULLIFIED
In 2016, arbitrator William P. Hobgood determined the city’s second termination of Bigwood was too severe of a punishment. According to his order, Hobgood said the city could not use the circumstances surrounding Bigwood’s 2010 termination to establish a pattern that he is unfit to be a law-enforcement officer.
“The first incident involved an inappropriate relationship with a civilian and inappropriate use of city equipment in the course of that relationship,” Hobgood wrote. “The second was a domestic relations conflict fueled by abuse of alcohol. While both incidents warrant discipline, the differences in the two incidents, along with the passage of time, requires that the second incident be considered on its own merits.”
Hobgood concluded that because Bigwood had successfully sought rehabilitation and was in recovery from his alcohol dependency, removing him from his job was not warranted. Hobgood ordered the city to reinstate Bigwood without back pay and benefits on the condition he undergo a medical examination and go to counseling for one year by a substance-abuse professional chosen by Lauderhill.
A year later, Bigwood was back on track. A 2017 employee evaluation shows he was being lined up for a supervisory role despite his checkered history. Lt. Michael Lacey wrote that Bigwood’s “subordinates view him as their leader,” that “he maintains a good working relationship with all department personnel” and that “his work ethic is exemplary.”
Lacey recommended Bigwood attend advanced training and managerial courses “to better prepare himself for future advancement.” Lacey noted that Bigwood aspired to be assigned to an investigative function within the department as a supervisor.
“Sergeant Bigwood’ s long term career aspiration is to become a police lieutenant,” Lacey wrote. “Sergeant Bigwood feels that by achieving either of these aspirations, he can make a positive impact on this department.”
In September 2020, Bigwood accomplished his mission. Chief Stanley promoted him to lieutenant in charge of the criminal investigation division, according to his personnel file.
BIGWOOD’S THIRD STRIKE
According to the anonymous Lauderhill police officer, Bigwood attended a farewell party for a detective at Bokampers Sports Bar & Grill in Plantation on Sept. 24. “Mike Bigwood has a bit of a drinking problem and he got intoxicated,” the officer said. “He allegedly made inappropriate and sexually suggestive comments to some of the women who were there.”
The officer said Bigwood also aggressively pursued a female administrative assistant to her car when she was leaving the party. “He wanted to know where she was going,” the officer said. “I guess he wanted to go with her.”
A few days later, someone placed an anonymous complaint about what allegedly transpired in the Lauderhill Police Department’s suggestion box, the officer said. The officer provided Florida Bulldog with a screenshot of a Sept. 29 email from Deputy Chief Siegel informing all employees in the criminal investigations division that Sgt. Brian Hardy was now in charge.
“Until further [notice], Lt. Michael Bigwood is temporarily assigned to the administration bureau,” Siegel wrote.
The same day, Siegel held a meeting with employees who reported to Bigwood and informed them that an allegation had been made against him without providing any specifics, the officer said. During the latest probe against Bigwood, one female detective under his supervision was reluctant to go on the record about him allegedly making passes at her because of the two previous failed terminations, the officer said.
The detective and other female employees were also fearful about providing sworn statements because Bigwood twice showed up at the criminal investigations section despite being banished to the administration bureau. “They got nervous because he was still coming into the police department,” the officer said. “A major and an assistant chief had to tell him to leave.”
It wasn’t until Nov. 2 that Deputy Chief Siegel informed criminal division employees that Bigwood was being placed on administrative leave with pay, according to another email Siegel sent. “No one understands why it took so long,” the officer said. “A lot of folks think he should get fired again. And for good this time.”