FORT LAUDERDALE, FL — After two veteran Fort Lauderdale cops argued and tussled about one man dating the other’s ex-wife, the department is firing Officer Stevens Gelu.
The conflict began on a Saturday night between Gelu, 46, a road patrol officer with 15 years on the force, and Officer Wesley Taylor, 44, who has been with the department for two decades.
At about midnight on April 14, Gelu drove past his ex-wife’s home. When he saw a strange car there, he looked up the license plate in a restricted law enforcement database called DAVID and discovered the car belonged to Taylor, according to internal affairs reports.
Gelu’s former spouse also worked at the department.
He reached his ex-wife and Taylor on their cellphones and told them both that he didn’t approve of them dating, since they all worked together and she is the mother of his child.
At the police station on April 17, Gelu and Taylor met to talk privately about the situation.
Taylor told investigators that Gelu accused him of violating “an unwritten code.”
Taylor said Gelu struck his face with an open hand, an assault that Gelu denied happened. Taylor then took Gelu to the floor in the station and straddled his colleague as Gelu lay on his back.
Gelu pushed Taylor’s face in an effort to get him off of him, and Taylor ended up with scratches beneath his eyes. Other officers separated them, the reports said.
The men were briefly put on paid leave that month.
Gelu admitted using the DAVID system while off duty on April 14. He told internal affairs investigators that it was unusual to see another car at his former wife’s house, and he suspected there could be a burglary. But he also said he didn’t call police about his concerns or knock on his ex-wife’s door, according to the reports.
It was apparently the third time Gelu accessed the DAVID database without a legitimate reason; he was previously disciplined for improper use of the database in 2015 and in August. He said during the current investigation that it was poor judgment on his part to use the database the way he did, and that he was hurt his former spouse could be dating another officer in the same department.
Gelu also expressed regret that his conversation with Taylor escalated quickly into a scuffle.
An Oct. 5 memo signed by Police Chief Rick Maglione says Gelu violated department policies: Physical assault or battery on any member of the department; engaging in conduct unbecoming a police officer; unauthorized access and use of law enforcement databases … not related to legitimate business purposes, and conduct [that was] prejudicial [and] disruptive to the good order of the department.
Gelu, whose base pay is $91,644, could not be reached for comment. In October, he was suspended for 20 days without pay. His last day with the department will be Friday, the agency said.
An internal affairs investigator said in a report that the case would be referred to the Broward state attorney’s office for review. Fort Lauderdale’s Citizens Police Review Board is also scheduled to discuss how the department handled Gelu’s dismissal when it meets Nov. 15.
The Fort Lauderdale Fraternal Order of Police filed an appeal of Gelu’s dismissal, said Fort Lauderdale Police Sgt. Mike Tucker, who is president of the department’s union chapter. An initial hearing with police administrators was held last week, Tucker said.
“If the grievance is not sustained and we didn’t prevail at that hearing, we can file another appeal,” Tucker said. “It may go further, to arbitration, but that is still to be determined.”
Tucker said of Gelu, “He’s hopeful that the full story comes out through the appeals process and that he is reinstated to full-time duty.”
Tucker declined to say what the full story was, pending the outcome of Gelu’s appeal.
Gelu has made the news before. In 2005, he was cleared in two internal affairs investigations: after he accidentally shot his partner while responding to a disturbance call, and in a domestic violence case.
From The Sun-Sentinel