|Paul Bryant IV|
What do you know, yet another cop from Florida busted for a sex crime. Question is, will he be on the sex offender registry for life? We doubt it!
By Jason Geary
BARTOW - A former Winter Haven police officer was sentenced Thursday to five years in prison for charges related to having sex with prostitutes while on duty.
Circuit Judge Catherine Combee also ordered Paul Bryant IV to serve five years of probation following a hearing that included testimony from Winter Haven's police chief and a former “working girl.”
Bryant's arrest last year was the result of a three-month long investigation by the Winter Haven Police Department and Polk County Sheriff's Office.
Bryant, 30, had been a member of the police department since August 2009 and earned an annual salary of $41,080. He resigned after his arrest in December.
David Lopez, a PCSO detective who helped investigate the case, said he questioned Bryant and he initially denied the allegations.
When confronted with evidence, he admitted to his actions, but he didn't show remorse, Lopez said.
“He was more concerned with his face being plastered across the news,” Lopez said.
Bryant pleaded guilty in August to false imprisonment, disclosing confidential criminal justice information and three counts of soliciting prostitution.
At Thursday's hearing, one woman testified that she is no longer a “working girl,” but she was at the time that she had sex with Bryant.
She said Bryant asked her for sex while on duty, and he was wearing his law enforcement vest, badge, radio and handgun.
“I didn't want to go to jail,” she said. “I was scared so I did what I did.”
The woman said she was “devastated” by Bryant's actions.
“It's really bothered me to think that a police officer would do that,” she said.
She was asked why it made a difference to her since she had sex with other people for money.
“Because police officers are supposed to uphold the law,” she answered.
Winter Haven Police Chief Gary Hester testified about the importance of law enforcement agencies working to maintain the public's trust in them.
“It's absolutely essential,” Hester said. “The authority that we have is granted to us by our citizens, and it's painful anytime a member of the law enforcement community violates that trust the citizens place in us.”
Hester described such incidents as having the potential to drive “a wedge” between officers and the communities that they swore an oath to protect.
One prostitute testified that Bryant told her that he could be her “friend on the street” and even warned her to “take the day off” to avoid a prostitution sting.
Any officer who leaks information about undercover operations can place the safety of fellow officers at risk, Hester said.
“That's kind of the ultimate betrayal for a sworn law enforcement officer to potentially place a coworker and fellow officer at risk because of them leaking information on an undercover operation,” he said.