LAKELAND – In July 2010, as the Florida unemployment rate was soaring into double digits and thousands of people were struggling to find work, Temeka Patterson was able to secure a job with a very strong employer, a public agency that would offer excellent benefits and health coverage.
Patterson got a position as a civilian telecommunicator – a call-taker and dispatcher – for the Polk County Sheriff’s Office in Bartow, a job that receives its funding from the taxpayers of Polk County. In that position, Patterson assisted the office in protecting the law-abiding citizens of Polk County, and ensuring that those who violate county laws end up in jail.
Today, it’s Patterson who is in the Polk County Jail, and is no longer employed by the agency that arrested her.
“She resigned effective immediately upon her arrest,” said Carrie Eleazer, public information officer for the Polk County Sheriff’s Office.
“Had she not resigned,” Eleazer added, “she would have been terminated.”
Patterson, 31, who lives in Lakeland, is in the jail along with her boyfriend, 33-year-old Lawrence Jerome McKinley. They were arrested on Friday, May 11 by Polk County Sheriff’s detectives following an investigation into allegations tat tey were usingg Patterson’s Lakeland apartment to sell drugs.
Both Patterson and McKinley got charged with one count each of possession of cocaine, possession of drug paraphernalia, and maintaining a dwelling for drug use.
According to detectives, the sheriff’s office had gotten a tip that Patterson and McKinley were dealing drugs. Detectives started an investigation of the couple, and, according to Eleazer, found plenty of evidence to back up that tip.
“Detectives followed up on information that Patterson and McKinley were selling cocaine out of Patterson’s apartment,” Eleazer said. “When detectives responded to her apartment and searched it, they found a shoebox with cocaine in it, digital scales with cocaine residue on them, a plate with cocaine residue on it, and a knife and razor with cocaine residue on them.”
On April 12, Heather Johnson, 26, of Winter Haven, resigned from her position as a civilian employee with the sheriff’s office. She was charged with one count of false reporting to law enforcement regarding a capital felony.
Johnson had made an allegation against her father, telling detectives that when she was five years old, she had been sexually battered by him. Detectives opened an investigation into Johnson’s charges, but she eventually admitted to detectives that she had lied about the allegations. Johnson had been a telecommunications shift supervisor, and she had also been hired in July 2010 as a Polk County Sheriff’s Office telecommunicator.