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A Jacksonville woman says law enforcement isn't being held accountable after breaking departmental rules

3:10 PM, May 14, 2013   |    comments
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The controversial 2012 Whiskey River fundraiser prompted several JSO officers to dig into Candice Buckner's background (second from left)

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. -- Candice Buckner had her name splashed across the headlines last August when she was one of six Jacksonville firefighters punished for a risque fundraiser at the Whisky River bar.   

The event, which included nudity and some sexually suggestive poses, sparked broad public outcry.

Buckner didn't expose herself -- "I had my top on," she notes. "I wasn't participating in any lewd or lascivious conduct."

But she said she felt completely exposed when she learned the incident prompted several Jacksonville Sheriff's Officers to dig into her personal data out of mere "curiosity." The incident was investigated by the Florida Department of Law Enforcement, which confirmed the searches but found no grounds to discipline the officers.

For Buckner, the discovery raised a whole new set of questions.

"After you find out your driver's license has been run by seven police officers who didn't have a reason, you step back and say -- 'OK, what else has been compromised?'"

When Buckner asked that question, she was shocked to learn that another six JSO officers -- including her ex-fiance -- had delved into her records.

Among the information they accessed, she said: "My Driver's License, my Social Security number, my name, my date of birth, my home address, my emergency contacts."

The data breach was confirmed after JSO's Internal Affairs Unit began looking into a complaint Bucker filed against Sgt. Chad Collier, her former fiance and the father of her 2-year-old son.

Buckner told JSO he'd repeatedly driven out to her Green Cove Springs home when he was supposed to be working -- an allegation the Sheriff's Office verified through police radio tracking data.

"He was on duty, in his uniform, in his patrol car," said Buckner. "He was coming out there because we were in the middle of a personal argument about our son."

When contacted by First Cost News, Sgt. Collier declined comment.

Bucker also complained that Sgt. Collier was filing false complaints about her at her work, accusing her of theft, and of driving on a suspended license. Buckner insists neither allegation is true, and the social worker who evaluated the couple in their custody dispute determined Collier's allegations were fabricated.

"This evaluator is concerned because it appears that the father manufactured a number of allegations," the 2012 Social Investigation notes, "and recanted them when the inaccuracy was discovered."

Buckner said the harassment wasn't merely annoying, it was scary. "He has a history of stalking other women," she explained.

In fact, according to an article in the Florida Times-Union, Sgt. Collier -- then a narcotics detective -- was arrested in 2005. He was charged with criminal mischief and trespassing after police said he kicked in the door of a former girlfriend.

Collier's record has since been expunged, but his arrest is mentioned in documents obtained by First Coast News, including a custody-related interview with social service workers and his Internal Affairs file. 

According to the 2012 Social Investigation, "Chad ... stated that the charges were dropped, and that he received 30 days suspension from work. It involved an instance where he stated that he kicked a door open because a woman he was dating was not at home when they were scheduled to have dinner together." The report noted, "This was characterized as a stalking incident."

JSO gave Sgt. Collier a written reprimand for leaving his work zone while on duty, but it hasn't issued any punishment in regards to Buckner's other complaints. As for the other 12 officers who looked into her background, not one of those officers has been disciplined. In fact, throughout the process, Buckner said JSO has been more hindrance than help.

"You ask for help with stalking issues, you ask for help with public records, and trying to build a case, and it's one stonewall after another," she said. "When I say I'm hugely disappointed, it's an understatement."

JSO said it stands by its investigation of all of Buckner's complaints. But Buckner said her experience raises questions about how law enforcement handles internal probes.

"I understand it's a love/hate relationship with police officers and society," Buckner added. "But when you go to them for help with one of their own and it feels like you're not getting anywhere, you lose faith in the system."

First Coast News

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