According to The Orlando Sentinel, two Fruitland Park police officers are no longer on the force following FBI allegations that the two were members of the Ku Klux Klan. One of the reported Klan members, Deputy Chief David Borst, denied the allegations but resigned immediately. Borst also resigned from his position as the city’s fire chief. A second officer, George Hunnewell, was fired by the department.
The FBI submitted a report to the Florida Department of Law Enforcement containing evidence allegedly connecting Hunnewell and Borst to the KKK. The report was delivered to Fruitland Park Police Chief Terry Isaacs, who took action last Friday. After consulting with Chief Deputy State Attorney Ric Ridgway and City Manager Gary La Venia, Police Chief Isaacs fired Hunnewell, citing his long record of workplace misconduct and recent demotion as the basis for his dismissal. Said Isaacs of Hunnewell, “I just had no faith in him.”
Deputy Chief David Borst, on the other hand, was Isaac’s second-in-command and trained a significant number of the department’s officers. The Orlando Sentinel notes that Isaac said of Borst, “It’s a tough situation. He was my assistant. I’m not saying I believe him. I’m not saying I don’t believe him. But I’ve read the report, and it’s convincing.”
This is not the first time that the small, 18-officer Fruitland Park Police Department has faced allegations of KKK connections. In 2009, another officer on the force, James Elkins, voluntarily stepped down after photos emerged depicting him wearing a Klan hood and robe over his police uniform.
Though Isaacs avoided directly mentioning the KKK in his comments, he indicated that the allegations pertained to the officers’ membership in a “subversive organization.” According to Click Orlando, it was the FBI, by way of an informant, and Florida Department of Law Enforcement spokesperson Chantal Hauser who specified the allegations of Ku Klux Klan connections. Reportedly, the two officers were involved in the KKK from 2005-2009.
Following the report, the Lake County Office of the State Attorney is reviewing all of the officers’ arrests to determine whether or not racial profiling might have taken place. Said Chief Isaacs, “The last thing I was expecting to hear in the year 2014 was for a professional law-enforcement officer to be a member of a subversive organization.” He also told local affiliate News 13, “We are here, we are in place, and I want the public to know this type of conduct will not even be remotely tolerated.”
City Manager Gary La Venia issued a statement in response to the report, “The city of Fruitland Park is a diverse, tolerant, welcoming community. We cannot, nor will we tolerate any philosophy that is inherently morally corrupt, one that espouses bigotry, or intolerance aimed toward any groups or individuals because of their race, ethnicity, religion, gender or sexual orientation, or even the appearance of such in our ranks.” Technically speaking, none of the officers with alleged KKK ties were fired specifically for those ties, as two, including Officer Elkins from 2009, resigned voluntarily, and the third had already received enough disciplinary violations prior to the allegations to merit dismissal.