Davie’s Police Chief recently announced his resignation in a short letter to city officials. SFGN obtained a copy of it Monday and was first to report the news.
Dale Engle had been on administrative leave since April while an investigation was conducted after he claimed a gay Broward Sheriff’s deputy died of COVID-19 because he was a "homosexual who attended homosexual events." The alleged remarks were made April 7 during a patrol briefing where Davie police officers expressed concerns over the coronavirus.
“To say that I have been privileged to proudly serve this Town is an understatement,” Engle said in his resignation letter. “I will cherish the past two plus decades of life and work experiences that have helped define my character, life purpose and ultimately developed me into who I am today.”
The resignation takes effect September 3. Engle did not address the investigation in his letter. According to a city official the investigation is still ongoing.
Mike Tucker, chief of staff of the Florida Fraternal Order of Police, sent a letter to Davie’s Town Administrator complaining of the police chief’s behavior, and comments about the deputy.
Shannon Bennett, a gay man, was a 12-year veteran of the Broward Sheriff’s Office. He died April 3 from COVID-19.
The FOP complaint reads: “[He] allegedly yelled about a ‘backstory’ which proclaimed that Deputy Bennett contracted and died from the virus because he was a ‘homosexual who attended homosexual sexual events.’ The reported inference was that it was because of the homosexual lifestyle that Deputy Bennett first contracted a serious underlying disease which aggravated the Covid-19 virus and lead to his death.”
The complaint also said Engle attempted to later “walk back” his comments in a departmental email. According to the complaint Engle said that he had been trying to “provide as much information as possible” and that his comments may have been “taken out of context.”
SFGN spoke to one of the officers who witnessed the incident. They asked to remain anonymous for fear of retaliation.
“I was there when he said what he said. I was offended,” the officer said. The police chief claimed Deputy Bennett “went to a homosexual party in Miami and everybody that went to that party is sick and got the coronavirus and is dying.”
The officer had mixed feelings over Engle’s resignation.
“I am satisfied in the sense that I don’t have to work with him anymore,” the officer said. “I don’t like the guy and while I would have liked to have seen him fired, he does have young kids and I wouldn’t want to see them punished for something he did.”
SFGN submitted a public records request for a copy of the investigation but according to Davie’s Town Clerk it’s still “an open investigation” and therefore not available to the public yet.
Engle had served as Davie’s police chief for a year when he was placed on administrative leave. He’s been with the department for 22 years and worked in operations, investigations and administration.
“Chief Engle has proven to be compassionate, trustworthy, knowledgeable of police operations and genuinely shows interest in others," Davie Town Administrator Richard J. Lemack said in a statement when Engle was promoted. "He is receptive to ideas, approachable, friendly, motivational and has an uncanny ability as a decision maker among his other traits."
Bennett, 39, worked for the Broward Sheriff’s Office and had been a school resource officer at Deerfield Beach Elementary School since January 2019.
“Deputy Bennett was a treasured member of the LGBTQ community and dedicated his career to ensuring the most vulnerable individuals in our society could find safety and support,” reads a statement from Equality Florida, the largest statewide LGBT rights organization. “The offensive comments attributed to Chief Engle robbed Deputy Bennett, and all LGBTQ people, of the dignity and respect they deserve.”
According to reporting from the Sun Sentinel, the Broward County Medical Examiner said Bennett’s underlying health condition was asthma.
In April, Broward Sheriff Gregory Tony told NBC 6 if the comments were true, they would be considered offensive and homophobic.
"It would be lack of decency and character to make such a suggestion because there's no accurate information out there that would support such a notion," Tony said. "And it would only be something done under a derogatory aspect, which would be offensive to me and this agency."
In April a Change.org petition was launched urging the town to fire Engle. To date more than 32,000 people have signed it.
“Equality Florida calls on the Town of Davie to terminate Chief Engle’s employment if these reports are substantiated. As a leader of Davie’s law enforcement agency, he has failed to demonstrate the respect and leadership skills needed to protect all individuals who reside or visit Davie,” the statement continues.
Below is Engle's full letter.