JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – A 911 dispatcher is charged with fleeing the scene of an accident with bodily injury, the Jacksonville Sheriff’s Office said Wednesday.
At a new conference Wednesday morning, JSO Undersheriff Pat Ivey announced the arrest of 20-year veteran Police Emergency Communications Officer Kenneth Clifton following a hit-and-run crash Nov. 30 on Verna Boulevard in the Normandy area that left a bicyclist seriously injured.
Ivey said a piece of evidence — a passenger-side mirror — was left at the scene, and traffic homicide investigators used that mirror to determine the year, make, model and color of the vehicle involved.
“What normally happens in a case like this is they’re able then to cast a net out with our databases and see how many of those are registered within a certain proximity of a particular area. This actually that, that check actually netted 30 of those, and our employee was actually No. 4 on the list,” Ivey said. “But while that was occurring by traffic homicide, the employee who was involved was actually going into the system. He had seen the BOLO (be on the lookout) put out, knew he had been involved in something and determined that, ‘Oh, that must be me.’”
Ivey said Clifton then reached out to the lead traffic homicide investigator on the case and told the investigator that he believed it was his vehicle that a be on the lookout was issued for. Ivey said traffic homicide investigators then reached out to the JSO Integrity Unit, which does investigations on criminal conduct by Sheriff’s Office employees.
Clifton was interviewed Wednesday morning, and Ivey said he gave a story that he thought he hit a pothole at the time of the incident.
“But the damage to the vehicle is not consistent with hitting a pothole,” Ivey said. “The front passenger headlight was broken out. The mirror was completely sheared off on the passenger side, and there was a large dent on the front fender.”
Ivey said Clifton resigned from JSO following his arrest Wednesday morning on the third-degree felony charge. His booking photo is not available because he worked for the Sherrif’s Office and chose not to have it released.
News4JAX crime and safety expert Ken Jefferson notes that drivers who are involved in traffic collisions of any kind are always better off if they follow the law, stay on-scene and cooperate with law enforcement.
“The worst thing you can do is to leave,” Jefferson said. “The best thing to do is to stay there, cooperate with law enforcement and then take whatever judgment or punishment that’s going to come your way because it’s going to be much less severe than it would be if you leave.”
There have been 10 arrests of JSO employees in 2021 — five police officers, two corrections officers, and three civilian employees, including Clifton. In 2020, there were 11 arrests of JSO employees.
According to JSO, Clifton had one prior in-house complaint: an allegation of failure to conform to work standards in October 2019. The Sheriff’s Office said the complaint was sustained and Clifton was given informal counseling.