By Francisco Alvarado, FloridaBulldog.org
A part-time officer with the Coral Springs Police appears to have abandoned an inebriated woman in the backseat of his truck with his personal firearm in the center console, but the department’s top brass quickly shut down any possibility of an investigation.
The reason? To save money on the cost of guarding schools in the city, according to one police employee.
Instead of launching an internal affairs probe, Charles Konecke’s supervisors gave him a warning letter on Feb. 2 for losing his police department keys. Incurious police asked few questions and took no formal statement from Konecke, a school resource officer who only works when the school year is in session.
The department’s action regarding Konecke amounted to this: Here’s this letter, sign it and don’t do it again.
Earlier that day, around midnight, more than a half-dozen officers responded to his condominium complex about a “suspicious incident” involving a man who stumbled, vomited and passed out on the floor trying to walk up the stairs to his unit, according to an incident report.
Officers were unable to make contact with Konecke after discovering his police keys lying on the ground next to a black Dodge Ram registered to him. They also found a woman passed out in the backseat, the report states, and 10 loose bullets alongside the gun.
CRUCIAL FACTS OMITTED
The report, a 911 call log and police bodycam video obtained and reviewed by Florida Bulldog contained crucial facts that were omitted from the warning letter. The “Record of Discussion” makes no mention of the female, the gun or the bullets found in the Ram.
Konecke declined comment for this story.
Konecke joined Coral Springs Police on a part-time basis in 2020 after retiring from the Margate Police Department, where he spent 30 years as a law enforcement officer. In his Coral Springs application, Konecke wrote that he had only one blemish during his time in Margate: an 8-hour suspension for failing to report hitting a curb with his police cruiser as an accident in 2007.
He finished his Margate career as a road patrol lieutenant, earning a $124,800 salary his final year, according to that city’s human resources department. His part-time Coral Springs gig pays Konecke $33.88 an hour with no benefits, according to his personnel file.
Coral Springs Police spokesman Officer Chris Swinson told Florida Bulldog that Konecke received the appropriate disciplinary action based on the facts available to his direct supervisors.
“They issued him a policy violation because it was the only thing we have without a shadow of a doubt,” Swinson said. “We acted on the facts we had.”
THE WOMAN, GUN, BULLETS OMITTED
The woman, the personal gun and the bullets were not included in the “Record of Discussion” because Coral Springs Police could not conclusively prove at the time of the incident when they wrote the report that Konecke was behind the wheel of his truck when the female and the firearm were found, Swinson said.
However, a knowledgeable Coral Springs Police employee who spoke to Florida Bulldog on condition of anonymity claimed Coral Springs Police brass didn’t want to further investigate the incident due to a shortage of part-time school resource officers. “They desperately need to keep those positions filled,” the employee alleged. “I suspect if it was anyone other than a school resource officer, this would have been an internal affairs incident with the officer possibly suspended.”
The incident warranted more scrutiny and a more severe punishment than Konecke received, the anonymous employee said. “This record of discussion was left purposely without the facts,” the employee said. “He has a duty to protect the public, yet he left a vulnerable and unconscious lady in his personal vehicle where she had access to his police keys and his handgun.”
Around midnight on Feb. 2, eight road patrol officers rolled into the Grand Oasis, a community of three-story condominium buildings, in Coral Springs. A resident had called 911 about a man “laying on the floor, he possibly fell, vomited and was stumbling,” according to the incident report.
The man had gone into his apartment by the time the cops arrived, but the caller pointed to the Ram and a set of keys lying on the ground next to the truck, the report states.
“They noticed the rear passenger windows were down on the vehicle and a white female was passed out in the back passenger seat area of the truck,” the report states. “Officers woke [the woman] who was confused, disoriented and appeared intoxicated.”
A CHIRPING SOUND
She was unable to tell the officers where she lived and she was unsure where she was, the report states. One of the cops pressed fob on the keys and heard a vehicle alarm go off in another part of the condominium’s parking lot. He followed the chirping sound, which emanated from a Coral Springs Police patrol cruiser, the report states.
“While attempting to locate a key inside the Ram to secure the vehicle and its contents, a firearm (silver and black S&W Weston revolver and 10 loose rounds of .38 special ammunition) was located in the center console of the vehicle,” the report states. “The vehicle was unable to be properly secured and the firearm was brought to Coral Springs Police Department for safekeeping and entered into evidence.”
The gun, a personal weapon, was registered to Konecke.
In one of the bodycam videos, an officer states the keys were next to “a pile of vomit.” Another video shows two cops walking up to a third-floor unit where Konecke lives and banging loudly on the door five times with no response. Other footage shows an officer taking the gun, its gun case and the bullets from the center console and placing them into a brown paper bag.
The videos also show three cops walking to Konecke’s patrol car after finding the keys and the supervising sergeant saying, “if he made it from here to there, then he’s ok. If we had a crime or something, I’d be worried about it.”
The inebriated woman was picked up by her husband, who showed up to take her home after cops contacted her mother, bodycam footage shows.
NO INTERNAL INVESTIGATION
Later that morning, Konecke received a “record of discussion” that only addresses the “police issued keys including your patrol vehicle keys, as well as other city department Knox box keys” officers found lying on the ground next to Konecke’s truck.
Officers’ attempts to contact Konecke by knocking on his door and calling his cellphone “were met with negative results,” the warning letter states.
The document – signed by Konecke, his two direct supervisors and a Coral Springs human resources representative – states he violated a Coral Springs Police Department policy requiring employees to be responsible for the “care and use of all departmental property or equipment assigned to them.”
Swinson, the Coral Springs Police spokesman, insisted that Konecke did not receive a harsher punishment because the evidence gathered at the scene was not enough to show he had broken rules and regulations beyond losing his police keys.
The bodycam footage does not conclusively show that Konecke was the intoxicated man the 911 call was initially about, Swinson said. “When the officers got this call, they didn’t know who was involved until one of them tried the remote,” Swinson said. “They knew they had a department member’s key. They knocked on the door and no one came.”
‘NOTHING WE COULD DO’; NOT EXACTLY
The department could not open an internal affairs investigation because no one, including the woman and the 911 caller, filed a complaint against Konecke, Swinson added.
“There was nothing we could do,” he said. “We didn’t even have a witness as to who was driving the truck. If there was more to it or it warranted further action, I am sure his supervisors would do it. I can understand the assumptions, but that is not the way we operate.”
Swinson neglected to note that, as in other municipalities, in the absence of an external complaint an internal complaint could have been brought in order to initiate an investigation.
Yet, Coral Springs Police did not follow up with the woman after her husband took her home. Reached by phone, the woman told Florida Bulldog that the department has never contacted her for a statement about how she wound up in the backseat of Konecke’s truck. She declined further comment.
According to Konecke’s most recent job evaluation, completed on May 31, his supervisor recommended that Coral Springs Police continue his part-time employment when schools reopen in August. The evaluation noted the Record of Discussion. During the evaluation Konecke also expressed remorse for the incident: “Charles was apologetic and advised it would not happen again.”
GOING EASY DUE TO STAFFING SHORTAGE?
Keith Taylor, an adjunct professor at John Jay College of Criminal Justice who teaches policing courses, said it’s possible Konecke’s supervisors went easy on him because of a staffing shortage and to reduce any possible embarrassment the incident could cause the Coral Springs Police Department.
“It is not unusual for departments to negotiate any potential charges with their officers to the bare minimum in exchange for officers signing off on the violation,” Taylor said. “I think it is a reflection of how law enforcement agencies work.”
Furthermore, Taylor agreed Konecke’s supervisors were hamstrung: “It would be difficult to prove the officer was involved in any kind of wrongdoing given the facts as presented.”
However, Coral Springs Police bosses didn’t even attempt to determine if Konecke was sober when he showed up for work the morning of Feb. 2 by making him take a breathalyzer test, the anonymous employee said. The incident took place on a Wednesday, so Konecke was scheduled to work that day. “We have a policy that we are not supposed to drink for a certain number of hours before a shift,” the employee said.
Swinson said the police department did not make Konecke submit to a breathalyzer test because he was not suspected of showing up to work inebriated. Swinson also disputed the employee’s understanding of the police department’s drinking policy.
“We do have a policy about showing up to work intoxicated and if you come under suspicion you are required to submit to testing,” Swinson said. “But it requires us to detect something. There has to be a smell of alcohol.”
With regards to Konecke’s remorsefulness in his evaluation, it was in reference to losing his keys only, Swinson said. “He admitted to losing his keys and it ended at that,” Swinson said.
School resource officer positions are typically staffed by retired cops like Konecke who don’t receive full benefits and are paid at a lower scale, the employee said. The department is short-staffed on school resource officers following last year’s arrest of Coral Springs schools cop Steven Daniello, the employee noted.
Daniello, who lists a permanent address in Cape Coral, was charged with two felony charges of soliciting a minor for unlawful sexual conduct using a computer device after he was busted asking for sexually explicit photos and sexual acts from a minor who turned out to be an undercover detective, according to court records.
In January, Daniello pleaded guilty and was sentenced to 14 ½ months in prison, plus 45 ½ months probation.
Konecke caught a break because Coral Springs Police’s top brass didn’t want to have to pay for a full-time officer to cover his school shifts, the employee said. “A record of discussion is not even a disciplinary action,” the employee said. “It’s informal counseling. It’s a giant cover-up. We were all shocked at how they handled it.”