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Career over for veteran St. Petersburg officer accused of DUI

ST. PETERSBURG — A veteran police officer who resigned last year after he was arrested on a DUI charge would have been fired had he not resigned, according to an internal police report released Thursday.

Officer James R. Griffis Jr., 45, resigned on Nov. 30 after nearly 21 years on the force. He quit after the Florida Highway Patrol arrested him Oct. 23 in Tampa on charges of DUI and DUI with property damage.

According to an internal St. Petersburg police report, Griffis' vehicle crashed into a chain-link fence and a concrete wall on a service road just off the northbound Howard Frankland Bridge around 4:15 p.m.

Paramedics reported finding beer cans near the vehicle. Griffis said they weren't his, according to the report, but the trooper and other witnesses believed he had been drinking before the crash.

His blood-alcohol level tested 0.163 and 0.161 percent, the internal report says. Florida law presumes a driver is impaired at 0.08 percent. Griffis was taken to Hillsborough County Jail and freed on $1,000 bail hours later.

He was placed on medical leave and ordered not to drink alcohol, the report said. He resigned seven days later. Records show the DUI case is ongoing.

St. Petersburg police Chief Chuck Harmon and a chain of command board found Griffis would have been fired for conduct unbecoming, abusing alcohol and unlawful conduct had he not resigned.

The disciplinary memo also cited Griffis' prior misconduct. Griffis received a temporary written reprimand last year for handcuffing his unruly 11-year-old son to his bed, according to police. The son was disrespectful, threatening to run away and wildly flailing his hands at his father at the time, police said. Prosecutors decided no criminal act took place and the Department of Children and Families called it an "isolated incident." The police department cited Griffis for using "poor judgment" in restraining the child with city equipment.

The chain of command board on Thursday also said it would have fired civilian police employee Nora Spiridon for "chronic inefficiency" had she not chosen to retire first, according to a report.

Career over for veteran St. Petersburg officer accused of DUI 01/13/11 [Last modified: Thursday, January 13, 2011 10:00pm]
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