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Accused St. Petersburg detective resigns

ST. PETERSBURG — The allegations made against the 16-year veteran officer were startling: Detective Leticia Harrison accompanied her husband out of town to obtain marijuana so she could use her badge to shield him from her fellow officers.

So the St. Petersburg Police Department started investigating one of its own.

Officers did not substantiate the drug allegations — but what they did find out about one of their own cost Harrison her job.

While under surveillance, Harrison's fellow officers said she was speeding in her police cruiser, parking in handicapped spots, using her emergency lights to get to lunch, associating with criminals and living with a gun-toting, drug-using felon.

Harrison, a 36-year-old mother of three, resigned Thursday before her superiors could fire her.

"It's about time she's no longer working for the police force," said Assistant State Attorney Bill Loughery, who helped investigate the officer.

But did the Police Department have enough evidence to fire Harrison months ago?

• • •

Harrison was never implicated in the drug allegations that led her estranged husband, Marvin Wedderburn, to be charged with 10 counts of marijuana possession in June.

Husband and wife both denied she ever helped him obtain drugs.

But the investigation into Harrison continued. Police learned she was living with and dating an old high school boyfriend: Audra Brown, who did time in prison and was convicted of a 1993 armed robbery.

Investigators searched Harrison's home on June 4, according to a report, and found a small bag of marijuana and a .38-caliber gun.

Harrison said the gun belonged to Howard, according to a report, and that she knew he had it. But the officer should have known her boyfriend was breaking the law: Felons can't have firearms.

Harrison was suspended with pay in July while prosecutors and detectives investigated her.

The Pinellas-Pasco State Attorney's Office decided there wasn't enough evidence to prosecute Harrison for being a principal to a felon in possession of a firearm.

• • •

Was what the department uncovered in June enough to fire Harrison on the spot?

Police Chief Charles "Chuck" Harmon said no to that question on Thursday.

He said the department had to let the process take its course. Criminal investigations into Harrison and others had to end, the chief said, before the department could finish its internal investigation. It also had to respect her rights as an officer, Harmon said.

Before her case was heard Thursday by a chain-of-command board, Harrison spoke up, the chief said.

"She was apologetic for hanging around the wrong people," Harmon said. But it was far too late.

"Had she not resigned," the chief said, "she would have been terminated."

Researcher Shirl Kennedy contributed to this report. Jamal Thalji can be reached at thalji@sptimes.com or (727) 893-8472.

Accused St. Petersburg detective resigns 11/13/08 [Last modified: Thursday, November 20, 2008 6:53pm]
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