A former Florida police officer is now being investigated by the FBI for some of his actions on duty.
During a news conference Thursday morning, Bradenton Police Chief Melanie Bevan said a long-term internal affairs investigation into former Sgt. Leonel Marines revealed he was using his status as a police officer to meet women.
Bevan said the investigation revealed numerous administrative violations, including sex on duty.
The chief said Marines was using database searches of women, not for law enforcement purposes, but for social media, phone calls, and even to visit their homes in hopes of dating them. The chief said he was successful in some cases.
The internal investigation began last June when a woman filed a complaint against Marines after a brief encounter in a parking lot. Bevan said Marines followed the woman when she left and later showed up at her parents’ home hoping to speak with her.
The parents would not let him see their daughter and asked for his information. When he left without providing the information, the parents called Bradenton police to notify them.
“I sat down with her and her parents and I told them they were heroes, as far as I was concerned,” the chief said. “In this day and age, I think it takes a little bit of courage to be willing to tell a police officer standing at the door ‘No, we don’t want to let you talk to our daughter.'”
Bevan said she then ordered an investigation that found discrepancies in “several hundred” database queries of women. Marines was placed on administrative leave but later resigned.
“It goes without saying this is not what our officers should be doing,” Bevan said during her news conference. “Had Marines not resigned, he would have been fired.”
The chief said nearly 150 women were interviewed during the internal affairs investigation. She said a majority of the women were Hispanic. A “small subset” of the women confirmed they had negative and inappropriate contact with Marines while he was presenting himself as a Bradenton police officer.
“This is truly a disturbing situation for me as chief,” Bevan said. “Over the past couple of weeks, I have personally met with most of the women to help them regain their trust in the Bradenton Police Department and to ensure them that Marines’ actions are not a representation of those who so proudly wear this uniform and badge. And also simply to tell them I’m sorry.”
The Bradenton Police Department’s internal affairs investigation is now closed, but Bevan said this is still a “very active and open criminal investigation” that is being handled by the FBI.
Anyone who has more information or women who may have had inappropriate contact with Marines is asked to contact the FBI office in Tampa.
“I realize that it puts the Bradenton Police Department in a bad light, but it’s worth it to know that I took somebody who shouldn’t be on the street off of it,” she added.
Marines was with the Bradenton Police Department for 12 years.