Police Broke Rules In Death of Female Informant

Investigators found police broke a broad array of rules and guidelines in the botched sting which resulted in the murder of a 23-year-old female police informant in Tallahassee, Fla., in May.

Reports from twin inquiries by the Tallahassee Police Department's internal affairs bureau and by the Florida attorney general were released today following a court order.

The reports catalog broken violations by the police personnel who set up – and then botched – a sting of two suspected drug dealers, using Hoffman as the solo buyer. A third report, the official investigation into the incident by the Florida Department of Law Enforcement, is currently under seal by a state judge.

During the May sting operation arranged by the Tallahassee police, an 18-member team of local, state and federal law enforcement lost contact with Hoffman midway through the operation.

Later they tracked down the suspected dealers, who led them to Hoffman's body. Both men have been charged with murder, and have pled not guilty.

Police Chief Dennis Jones fired one policeman as a result of the inquiry, according to the Tallahassee Democrat; four others have been suspended for two weeks without pay, the newspaper said.

Jones also reportedly reprimanded his deputy chief of police over the incident, and the Tallahassee city manager officially reprimanded Chief Jones, demanding he more tightly supervise his department.

A police spokesman was not reachable for comment.

"This government is one that's forthright. It's a government that's honest. If we make mistakes, we're accountable for them," Michelle Bono, an aide to the city manager, told local reporters Wednesday, announcing the reports would be released.

But an attorney for Hoffman's family disagreed.

"There has been no public apology to this family," said Lance Block. "There was no explanation offered as to why the police department initially took the position of blaming Rachel Hoffman for her death and not accepting any responsibility for that." The family has formally alerted the city it intends to file suit.

Block added he believed the official FDLE investigation findings should also be made public. "I think it's important that the public is able to put the Tallahassee Police Department's internal writings in context with the official FDLE reports."

Many of the errors cited in the reports were previously alleged by Hoffman's family members and friends. For example, they confirmed that the police asked Hoffman to become a confidential informant without arresting her, cutting out the state attorney's office from being involved in crafting the cooperation agreement.

They also confirmed criticisms leveled at the department by a grand jury which heard evidence relating to Hoffman's murder. While the jurors voted to indict the two men Rachel had met for the staged buy, they also blasted law enforcement for its negligence role in the sting.

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