Three Polk County Peace Officers Arrested
(FL) – Three deputies with the Polk County Sheriff’s Office were arrested on multiple charges stemming from an event in which they are accused of tampering with evidence. Officer John Raczynski pulled over a woman for a traffic violation. He was backed up by Deputies Jamal Lawson and Garrett Cook. A K9 officer was called and the dog alerted to the woman’s car. When the officers searched the vehicle, they discovered narcotics. The woman was arrested and Deputy Raczynski wrote in his report that “they seized the drugs and a large quantity of cash ‘consistent with small narcotic sales.'” The deputy documented the money in the report, but the money never was turned in to the evidence and property room.
According to the sheriff (see video below), the deputies talk among themselves about the missing $723, but never notify their supervisor. When the woman’s charges get reduced, she contacts the Polk County Sheriff’s Office to get her property back.
Detectives Get Involved
A detective told the woman he would get back to her. He read the report and discovered no money was listed as being turned in. He contacted Raczynski to let him know the money was not listed. Raczynski panicked and called the evidence and property room lady and told her to call him from her personal phone. When she did he told her they would make it good. He then said never mind and asked if anyone heard her conversation. Uncomfortable with the conversation, the woman reports it to her supervisor. An investigation is conducted and within five days charges were being filed.
Police Misconduct Uncovered
The misconduct of the officers resulted in the following charges per Fox 13 News,
Raczynski faces five felony charges, including conspiracy to commit tampering with evidence, official misconduct for falsifying an official record, tampering or fabricating evidence, forgery, and uttering a forged instrument. He had been with the sheriff’s office for three and a half years.
Lawson faces three felony charges, including conspiracy to commit tampering with evidence, official misconduct for causing another person to falsify an official record, and tampering or fabricating evidence by transferring money to Raczynski, knowing it would be submitted as evidence. Like Raczynski, he had also been with the sheriff’s office for three and a half years.
Cook faces one felony charge of conspiracy to commit tampering with evidence. He had been with the sheriff’s office for five years.
Deputy Arrested for DUI
The day before the three male deputies were arrested, a Polk County detention officer was arrested in Desoto County for DUI. Deputy Michaela Butler was arrested after “a deputy observed her vehicle run off the road and then across the center line and into the southbound lane.” Butler had three passengers in her car and said she had gone to a concert. The arresting officer found an empty bear container and another partially full one. She was booked into jail and bonded out on a $1,000 bail bond. Her termination is pending.
Within the last six days, the Polk County Sheriff’s Officer has lost four of their deputies due to arrests. The four deputies’ ages ranged from mid to late 20s. These are deputies who, if they had not committed criminal acts, could have looked forward to long careers with the sheriff’s office.