He recently removed narcotics deputies from active duty amid accusations that they lied to gather evidence against marijuana growers, reported Stephen Nohlgren. Prosecutors have since dropped charges in many of those cases.
In one instance, a Seminole man arrested for growing marijuana said his surveillance cameras recorded a detective vaulting his backyard fence to gather evidence. When deputies came in later with a search warrant, they seized the recorder and erased all the images.
An ensuing internal affairs investigation was so full of unexplored inconsistencies and leading questions that Gualtieri ordered a new one after the Tampa Bay Times inquired.
Since then, the situation has only gotten worse. On Sunday, the Times published the account of Dan Thompson, a Santa Rosa man who was brutalized by a Pinellas Sheriff’s deputy serving in the Panhandle when Hurricane Ivan struck. A federal judge eventually sent the deputy to prison, but only after he was defended and promoted by the PCSO.
Gualtieri fired three deputies and one sergeant, and suspended two other deputies Monday for dereliction of duty. All were members of a north county patrol squad who went home, visited family or even watched a movie instead of protecting the streets on their midnight shift, said the sheriff. He calling their behavior “extreme loafing and idling” in a statement.
“These deputies by their intentional actions essentially cheated the taxpayers out of well over $24,600 during the time of the investigation — which was from July 1, 2011 to December 31, 2011,” Gualtieri said in a statement. “We believe our findings are a snapshot of what was going on for a longer period of time.”
One of the deputies fired was cited for 212 separate instances of “idling or loafing” which theoretically cost taxpayers over $9,000 in moneys paid for work not done.
A second deputy fired was cited for writing only 7 reports, 1 traffic stop and no citations or field interviews during a five-week period.
All of this begs the question, what the hell is going on in the Pinellas County Sheriff’s office?
Whatever is going on, don’t blame Bob Gualtieri.
He did not lie to prosecutors.
He didn’t vault a fence.
He didn’t beat a man in Santa Rosa.
He didn’t remove the GPS system from his patrol car.
Bob Gualtieri, who has been in his post as Sheriff for less than a year, did none of these things.
This has to do with deputies who were hired by either Everett Rice or Jim Coats. They were trained by Everett Rice or Jim Coats. They were supposedly led by Everett Rice or Jim Coats. So before assigning blame to Gualtieri, figure out who hired, trained and led these deputies for the last two decades.
I’m not going to argue here whether Gualtieri or Everett Rice should be Sheriff, but I will argue that Gualtieri should not be blamed for the increasing number of bad apples he’s having to throw out of the department.
Maybe, even, he deserves some credit for addressing the problems head-on.