A 23-year veteran DeLand police officer investigated in thefts from a Goodwill store retired from the police department Thursday, police and investigative reports show.
Brice Miller, 58, chose to retire before police Chief Bill Ridgway could make a decision on the investigation’s findings, said Sgt. Chris Estes, DeLand police spokesman.
“The recommendation was for him to be terminated,” Estes said. “But Officcer Miller made an appointment with the chief and it was his choice to resign.”
Miller went into the state’s drop program three years ago meaning he had to leave his job in five years.
According to Internal Affairs reports, video surveillance showed Miller on at least two occasions driving in his patrol car while on shift to the Goodwill store and pulling behind the building at 1560 N. Woodland Blvd. after business hours.
Miller can be seen examining the items left outside the business by donors, loading it into his police car and driving off, an IA investigator said.
When told he was being investigated, Miller said he took the items to help a needy family. He said it all started when he took a blanket once to help a homeless person.
Although Miller said he had permission from a store employee, numerous interviews by the investigator with the employees showed they never gave Miller permission to take the items.
The items consisted of clothing, dishes and glasses, the report shows.
Investigators identified the woman Miller had been giving the things to, a friend the officer had known for 12 years.
“What was learned from this was that the recipient of the property is a friend of his for many years and the actions seem personally motivated,” the investigator wrote in his report.
Miller told investigators he did not see signs posted by the business prohibiting people from taking items left outside the store.
“I would also submit that whether or not Officer Miller saw or read the signage, his presumed knowledge and years of experience should have given him pause and caused some concern that these actions would fall under scrutiny, particularly while on duty,” the invesigator said.
Police officials learned of the thefts of the donations from the Goodwill store when the loss prevention officer of the business contacted the police chief on May 21.
The loss prevention officer said that video surveillance had identifed a DeLand police officer removing property belonging to Goodwill. The video identified “PD 65″ the car assigned to Miller, reports state.
In a statement released this afternoon, Ridgway said: “It is unfortunate whenever an individual officer’s actions tarnish the image of law enforcement as a whole. When an incident of this type is alleged it affects the public trust and I am embarrassed that this incident involved a DeLand Police Officer. As the Chief of Police I can assure the public that this type of alleged behavior will never be tolerated.”