9 Investigates

FDLE investigating after officer says Winter Park police chief, wife tried to ‘harass, belittle, influence’ him

WINTER PARK, Fla. — 9 Investigates has learned that a fender bender led to an investigation by the Florida Department of Law Enforcement into the Winter Park police chief.

Chief Michael Deal requested an internal investigation into an Altamonte Springs police officer who handled a minor crash involving Deal’s wife Summer back in November 2019.

The Altamonte Springs Police Department conducted an internal investigation and determined their officer, Andrew Desmond, did nothing wrong. Now, FDLE is reviewing the situation to determine if Deal tried to use his rank to influence that officer.

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Because the crash had no injuries and no major damage, Desmond did not complete an in-depth crash report during the incident.

Summer Deal, who was on the phone with her husband for the duration of the investigation, wanted documentation that the trailer she hit was illegally parked in a fire lane.

“My husband wants to know, did you write a description of anything that happened, or that they’re in a fire lane in the opposite direction?” Summer Deal asked Desmond.

“Nobody got a ticket, I do have his insurance information for you and his phone number, and his trailer information for you,” Desmond replied.

“OK, my husband would like to speak with you,” Summer Deal said, as she handed the phone over to Desmond.

Desmond didn’t know the person on the other end of the line was a local police chief, but he was about to find out.

“His name is actually Chief Michael, just letting you know,” Summer Deal is heard saying on body camera video. “D/C of Altamonte. Chief of Winter Park,” Deal went on to tell Desmond.

In body camera video, what Chief Deal says on the other end of the phone cannot be heard. But in a sworn statement about the incident, Desmond wrote he “perceived Chief Deal to be using his rank and title to dissuade him from the decisions” made on the scene. Desmond went on to say he felt the two were attempting to “harass, belittle, influence and inferiorize him.”

Chief Deal, who once served as deputy chief for Altamonte police, asked his former department to open an internal investigation into how the crash was handled. According to Altamonte Springs Internal Affairs, Deal told investigators by phone, “I don’t give a [expletive] what you do with Andrew Desmond. He’s a liar.”

Desmond, however, was exonerated of any wrongdoing.

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Investigative reporter Karla Ray asked Chief Deal for an on camera interview, and he declined.

Deal would not go on camera, but sat with Ray for a two hour conversation about the allegations.

Deal said Desmond lied and contradicted himself in the internal affairs report, and that though he wants to tell his side of the story to FDLE, no one from the agency has interviewed him.

Deal also is adamant that he never personally identified himself as the chief of the Winter Park Police Department when speaking with Desmond.

9 Investigates learned it’s not the first time Deal’s wife has been involved in a negative interaction with officers.

In Chief Deal’s most recent employee review, from December 2019, City Manager Randy Knight wrote: “On more than one occasion, Chief Deal’s Wife has had negative interactions with or about members of the Police Department. These interactions have hampered working relationships within the department, and in some cases created an ongoing uncomfortable work environment. These types of interactions from a family member are unacceptable and will not be tolerated.”

9 Investigates asked for details or documentation of the incidents, but were told nothing exists.

Knight said in a statement: “After learning about the Altamonte Springs Police Department internal investigation, we instituted our own internal investigation that is being conducted by an independent agency, the Florida Department of Law Enforcement (FDLE). That investigation is ongoing and we are awaiting FDLE’s results.”

See the body camera footage and Ray’s full report below:

Karla Ray

Karla Ray, WFTV.com

Karla Ray anchors Eyewitness News This Morning on Saturday and Sundays, and is an investigative reporter for the 9 Investigates unit.