TAVARES, Fla. — Jason Baugh has been with the Tavares Police Department 14 years, conducted training courses, performs community service in the community, and the military veteran has worked his way up to Sergeant in that time. He lost his rank when he was hit with a double demotion because of an incident involved a burglary call that turned into a chase through parts of Lake County.
The internal affairs investigator said, “the paramount duty of a supervisor is to ensure that policy is followed. Sgt. Baugh did not stop the pursuit and did not complete the required police pursuit forms or document it on the shift report.”
Officer Baugh is now fighting to be re-instated. He alleges in a grievance that the department violated his officer Bill of Rights and failed to follow its own progressive discipline policy.
It was in April of 2022 when the complaint against him, another supervisor and a lower ranking officer was filed. They were all on duty the night a burglary call went out over the radio. Minutes later, Officer Courtney Bannick spotted a car speeding through town, and suspected that it may have been involved in the burglary that had occurred near Mount Dora, according to the internal affairs report. Officer Bannick has not responded to an email address 9 Investigates was provided to get a comment for this report.
According to internal police records, Lake County deputies and Tavares Police officers began following the suspects and that leads to a pursuit, reaching speeds up to 82 miles per hour in a 30 zone, and 56 in a 25-mph zone in a residential area, at certain points, according to GPS data. A Lake County deputy questions whether it should continue, over the radio. “I’m second in this attempted traffic stop, is it 10-40 to continue, he asked a supervisor, who responded, “yes, for now.”
Officer Bannick is leading the chase, with no lights or sirens, except for a brief moment, making a u-turn on a highway, continuing the chase into a residential neighborhood, blowing through stop signs. She was questioned about the incident during the internal investigation. “The thought process of me being behind it was just following it, I’m following it, I’m following it. If I’ve never lit it up, it’s not running from me, in a sense. I don’t know if what I’m saying is making sense,” she stated. Lieutenant Karl Grogan, who conducted the interview questioned her response. “What you’re saying seems to me like an out, I’m not chasing you because my lights aren’t on,” he said.
She told internal affairs she didn’t consider this a pursuit, and therefore never filled out a required report or made it clear to her Sergeant, Jason Baugh, who didn’t report it to the chain of command.
The department was alerted the next day when they heard rumblings about a wild chase through the city.
Bannick was suspended. Baugh, with no serious prior discipline, received a double demotion.
He and the corporal, Cullin O’Shea, told investigators they never heard anything in the radio transmissions indicating there was a pursuit. “When I observed her at Orange and 441 the light was green the vehicle obeyed traffic laws, again just following the vehicle,” Baugh said.
Baugh told Lt. Grogan that after the incident he asked Officer Bannick about her speeds and whether she felt she was involved in a pursuit, and she told him, she didn’t feel like she was. The investigator questions whether he should’ve done more digging. “What actions did you take to verify department policy had been followed,” Lt. Grogran asked. “I trust my officers that they’re going to do the right thing, after seeing this needed (inaudible) to be reevaluated at some point. I trust my officers to do the right thing,” Baugh said.
The City Manager has the final say in the grievance and they haven’t responded to our request for a comment, neither have the officers involved. No one was injured in the chase and the suspects got away that night. According to the internal affairs report, there was no officer in Tavares for about 18 minutes during the incident.
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