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Haines City's police chief, indicted last month on charges of soliciting prostitution, has resigned in the wake of a grand-jury investigation that found he abused his power by giving breaks to friends -- some of whom were criminals.
Meanwhile, the department's second in command, Capt. Mervin Stewart, 43, was indicted on two counts of perjury in connection with sexual-harassment complaints against him. The grand jury described him as "an embarrassment to the City, to his department and to his profession."
Neither Stewart nor his attorney could be reached late Thursday.
Morris West, who grew up in Haines City and became chief of the 42-officer department in July 2003, will step down Nov. 23 under a deal reached Thursday with prosecutors. West, 47, also agreed to give up his police credentials in exchange for prosecutors dropping the three prostitution charges pending against him.
The 22-year veteran of the force could not be reached, and his attorney, Larry Hardaway, said he could not comment because he had not seen the grand-jury presentment issued Thursday. West's resignation letter denies that he committed any crimes.
The scathing grand-jury report says West "undermined the good and lawful work of his officers based on his community ties" and that since he took over, "all the years of hard work and taxpayer money have been thrown away" because the agency no longer is accredited, "accountability is gone" and morale is poor.
The grand jury also criticized West's brother, Horace West, a Haines City commissioner. Because the chief's brother and two of his friends were on the commission, City Manager Ann Toney-Deal "must tread lightly or risk putting her job in jeopardy." Neither West nor Toney-Deal could be reached.
According to the report, Morris West:
*Testified on behalf of two men on trial in a Winn-Dixie robbery case in which a shotgun was put to a cashier's head.
*Directed the release of an AK-47 with a 100-round magazine, usually used in a machine gun, because the aunt of the suspect was West's niece by marriage.
*Told one of his officers not to arrest a local businessman, a friend of West's, even though a warrant had been issued.
*Directed the return of a large amount of cash to a known drug dealer without forcing a hearing, which is standard.
*Insisted that his agency handle a traffic crash involving West's sister even though it was outside city limits. The assigned officer testified that speeding caused the accident and that the driver would have received a ticket if the proper agency had investigated.
*Permitted a trainee, whose mother was an old friend of West's, to act as a full-fledged officer even though the man failed the police exam three times and his actions could have created liability for the department and the city.
*Spent excessive time with the evidence custodian behind a locked door in her office.
As for Stewart, the grand jury found that he lacked the qualifications for promotion to captain, had paid a prostitute for sex as many as 10 times while in uniform in his patrol car, had an affair with a subordinate and refused to participate in an internal investigation about the relationship, plagiarized a paper at Polk Community College and sexually harassed one of his officers.
He has been with the agency for 17 years.
The grand jury recommended that both men be removed from the department. It also recommended that Stewart lose his police certification and that all court cases that rely on his sole testimony be dismissed.

Story From: Orlando Sentinel
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