TAMPA attorney Richard Escobar said Thursday he was confident that Detective Jarda Bradford will be cleared of the tamper evidence that led to her arrest earlier this week.
Bradford said his client made procedural errors, but not a degree that would require arrest of the crime.
“Mistakes were made,” said Escobar. “But it is the reason for these mistakes that I consider so crucial and important.”
Bradford, 38, is charged with tampering with photos of possible suspects shown to witness an October 17th shooting in Tampa. According to Brian Dugan, the Tampa police chief, she failed to mask earrings in a photo constellation she put together. Then she exacerbated her mistake with a cover-up, said Dugan.
The boss campaigned for the transparency of his department during a press conference on Tuesday and praised Bradford’s fellow detectives for exposing their alleged wrongdoings that led to their eventual arrest.
But that doesn’t give the full picture of the situation, Escobar said at a separate press conference.
“We’ll have our day in court,” he said. “But unfortunately we had to come to you today to discuss issues that are important for the general public to understand.”
According to Escobar, Bradford, who has been a detective for 15 years but only two and a half months, received no training beyond 20 minutes on how to access photos on a photo constellation computer prior to being promoted to detective.
“If you are raised into a detective department, you will not get any training,” Escobar said, citing previous statements from detectives. “My customer received absolutely no training. And then she was hired to investigate a serious crime – a first degree murder attempt – without training. “
The attorney also alleged that his client was forced to work in a “toxic” and “forced” work environment, which has already resulted in six detectives leaving their posts under the same manager between July and October.
“You have enough pressure as a detective who goes day in and day out,” said Escobar. “You have this pressure and then you have to go into the office and face the chaos that is so widespread that six detectives have left the unit. There is no doubt that she was intimidated every day when she walked into this office. “
In Dugan’s words on Tuesday, Escobar reiterated that Bradford’s mistake was part of a “procedural error” that did not alter any physical evidence. The mistake also came after the prime suspect was already arrested – in part due to a Bradford photo constellation that was done correctly, Escobar said.
The lawyer then targeted Dugan specifically.
Escobar said Tampa’s police chief refused to meet Escobar ahead of Tuesday’s press conference, where he hoped to discuss case law. He also accused Dugan of employing strategies to avoid disclosing information for record requests required by the Sunshine Laws. Then he made an accusation directly related to Bradford’s case: he arrested her to look good.
“There are some wonderful officers at TPD,” said Escobar, “but we have a serious problem at the top.”
This is a developing story. Stay with tampabay.com for updates.