Police Sgt. Rudolph Brown Jr. is paid nearly $92,000 a year to supervise a squad of officers on the usually tranquil graveyard shift.
Assigned to an 11.5-hour workday, Brown was supposed to be on duty until 7 a.m. But on at least eight of every 10 mornings from December 2010 through February 2012, he was on his way home to West Palm Beach before then.
Brown typically passed through the Cypress Creek toll plaza in northern Broward County 30 minutes to two hours before his shift ended, but was paid for working a full day, according to his SunPass and payroll records.
Brown and his son were among 11 Plantation officers the Sun Sentinel found outside the city's borders when they were scheduled for duty. Others included a husband and wife fond of short days and long lunches.
The sergeant's early departures did not appear to be compensation for coming in ahead of schedule or staying late on other days. SunPass records of his round-trip commute show he spent less than his required 11.5 hours in Plantation at least 78 percent of the time.
On 74 days, Brown left the city after 8.5 to 11 hours, but collected a paycheck for a full day, the records show.
The sergeant spent at least 127 hours of his scheduled shift time outside Plantation over the 15-month period, the Sun Sentinel found. That's the equivalent of more than three weeks' pay, or about $5,500.
Brown, 52, did not respond to messages seeking comment.
Erik Funderburk, Plantation's deputy police chief, acknowledged a problem but said the department found a smaller number of shorted hours, 70 over a year. Funderburk said Brown sometimes had his supervisor's permission to leave early for personal reasons, but many early departures could not be explained.
"It's more than I would have expected," the deputy chief said. "I believe that those behaviors have been corrected."
A family affair
Brown's son, Officer Rudolph Brown III, followed his father's career path — and some of his work habits, records show.
The 30-year-old joined the Plantation Police Department in 2007, and like his dad, worked an overnight shift, but reported to another supervisor. On 120 of 130 days with SunPass records, Brown headed home to West Palm Beach before his normal shift ended, according to his toll times.
On 90 occasions, he had already passed through the Lantana tollbooth in central Palm Beach County — 30 miles from Plantation's northernmost border — by the time his shift was over.
In the 15-month period examined by the Sun Sentinel, Brown spent at least 55 hours of scheduled work time outside the boundaries of Plantation. His departure times could not be determined on 79 days due to missing SunPass records.
The younger Brown, who is paid $67,000 annually, also could not be reached. He may have had approval to leave early on some occasions, said Funderburk, who described Brown as a proactive officer.
"He's on the SWAT team," the deputy chief said. "He does do a lot."
Police supervisors cautioned Brown and his father about leaving early in February, and SunPass records show both have since stopped.
Short days, long lunches
Plantation's police ranks include another family, husband and wife Frank and Lori Legette. He's a detective and she's a support services officer whose responsibilities include crime prevention and background investigations for recruits.
Both are scheduled to work weekdays, eight hours a day. Residents of Coconut Creek, they commute separately in their police-issued cars.
SunPass records show Lori Legette, 47, took the Sawgrass Expressway in the mornings, heading east through the Deerfield Beach toll plaza. On 137 occasions over 13 months, her car was back at the tollbooth in less than eight hours and sometimes as little as five, the records show.
SunPass and payroll records indicate the officer put in less than an eight-hour day at least three-quarters of the time. Her total time in the city, including days where she put in extra time: 106 hours less than she was paid for, the equivalent of 2 1/2 weeks' pay.
Legette, who makes $80,000 a year, did not respond to messages seeking comment.
The deputy chief described her as a "zero-problem employee."
"She's always done a great job," Funderburk said. "She does work through lunch hours. She definitely grabs her salad and goes right back to her desk. She's not a sluff."
Legette's supervisor called her in after the Sun Sentinel provided her SunPass times to the deputy chief in September. "He obviously told her, 'You need to be a little bit more cautious,'" Funderburk said.
Frank Legette also was cautioned after the newspaper's analysis showed he appeared to be going home around lunchtime an average of once a week, sometimes staying up to three hours.
SunPass records show Frank Legette left for work in the early morning, taking Florida's Turnpike or the Sawgrass south to Plantation. On at least 56 days over 13 months, his car was back in Coconut Creek later in the morning or early afternoon and did not head south again for up to 3.5 hours, SunPass records show.
Funderburk said detectives are closely supervised, and that Legette handles the city's worst crimes. "I've personally seen him here on weekends catching up on cases," the deputy chief said.
Plantation officers are allowed to take meal breaks outside the city, Funderburk said. "Was [Frank Legette] probably taking advantage of the ability to go home for lunch? Yes," he said. "This is going to be reeled back."
Frank Legette, 51, could not be reached.
Plantation's top cops first became aware some of their officers were not where they were supposed to be in January, when the Sun Sentinel alerted them to SunPass records used in an investigation of off-duty speeding. Nine cops, including the Browns, were disciplined for excessive speeds and temporarily lost their take-home cars.
The SunPass records revealed something else to Plantation's police leaders: Officers were cutting out of work early, passing through tollbooths outside the city before their shifts ended. They learned over the summer from the Sun Sentinel of even more officers leaving early.
"There were a few individuals with clear patterns of concern," Funderburk said.
The police department did not initiate internal investigations on any of the officers who cut their shifts short, but emphasized to officers "in briefing after briefing" that future violations will be taken seriously, he said.
Department brass began randomly calling squads back to the station before the end of a shift and gave more supervisors access to GPS data in police cruisers to check on officers' whereabouts.
"I'm satisfied that the message has been sent," Funderburk said. "They're going to be held accountable for what they're expected to do, be where they're supposed to be."
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