Task Force cops work on their Wii skills

Posted by Rachel Leigh - email

POLK COUNTY, FL (WALB) - A drug bust in Polk County earlier this year turned into a day at the arcade for some police officers.

A home security camera caught the officers playing Wii bowling for nine hours as they carried out their search of the house.

In March, Polk Drug Investigators raided the Perkle Road home of 43-year-old Michael Difalco near Lakeland. Difalco has an extensive arrest record. He's done time in state prison for trafficking drugs.

On this day, members of a multi department drug task force claim they discovered drugs, weapons and stolen property. A security camera they missed, showed detectives also discovered a fun video game to play -- Wii bowling. And over the course of the next nine hours, game on.

This detective bowled frame after frame after frame. Practice makes perfect, and while another female detective lifted a couch looking for drugs, another officer focused on pin action.

Polk Sheriff Grady Judd calls the display embarrassing.

"How do you explain it?" a reporter asked.

"Well, you can't explain that," Sheriff Judd responded. "My deputies know that they shouldn't have been playing Wii while they were involved in that search warrant."

Detectives from the sheriff's office and Winter Haven, Auburndale and Lakeland Police Departments participated in the raid. All are caught on camera. "That doesn't please me; what pleases me less is the supervision that didn't say, 'Turn the television off.'"

Instead of ordering the video game and television turned off, this supervisor from the Lakeland Police Department joined the fun.

Defense Attorney Rick Escobar watched a sampling of the drug raid video. "I've never seen anything like this. I find this very offensive... Shocking embarrassing. I'm sure that the department is extremely embarrassed by this behavior."

Records show 16 detectives spent nine hours searching Difalco's property. The cost to taxpayers $4,000. "All the citizens are thinking, 'Wait a minute, we are paying these people to go out and protect us? And here they are playing bowling on our time.'"

The sheriff argues there is always down time during searches, and no tax dollars were wasted. "The nature of a search warrant is hurry up and wait. It just is. Am I trying to defend the fact that they were bowling? Not at all, that was inappropriate," said Judd.

The sheriff claims he launched an internal administrative investigation and will wait for a final report before he decides if anyone will face discipline. "It's an embarrassment to the detectives involved, and it's an embarrassment to the organization, but, you know what, we employee 1,800 people and not one of them is perfect. We all make mistakes. They made a mistake."