ST. PETERSBURG — Firefighter Ronald W. Smith is still waiting to find out what will happen with criminal charges pending against him after police arrested him earlier this month during a prostitution sting.
But his boss, Fire Chief Jim Large, has decided not to wait to take action. He suspended Smith for 10 shifts, equivalent to 30 days.
After an internal investigation, Large said he decided Smith violated the department's rules against "unbecoming conduct" on Oct. 2, the day he was booked into jail on charges of prostitution and resisting arrest.
Police said an undercover officer saw Smith pick up a prostitute in the 3700 block of 34th Street N. Officers followed and approached Smith's yellow Hummer after witnessing him and the woman engage in a sex act in a Walgreen's parking lot.
When Smith, 41, refused to open the door, officers broke a window to get him out. They later Tasered him when he continued to resist, police said.
“I called him in once he was released from jail," Large said. "He was very, very honest. … He admitted he did pick someone up."
Police said the woman Smith had in his vehicle said she'd agreed to have sex with Smith for $60. She too was arrested.
Smith has been a firefighter for more than 20 years. The charges he faces are misdemeanors.
His attorney, Hubbell Losson of Tampa, said it would not be appropriate for him to comment. Records show Smith has entered a not guilty plea.
Large said he did not need to wait for the outcome of the court case. Smith's suspension, he said, was the most severe he could give short of termination. He does not expect the firefighter to appeal it.
This is not the first time Smith, who is assigned to Station 12 in the Shore Acres neighborhood, has faced these allegations.
Court records show he was charged in 1995 with solicitation for prostitution and received probation. Large said he could not determine what, if any, internal discipline Smith received then.
In addition to the suspension, Smith also must attend an employee assistance program. If he messes up again, Large said, he'll be fired.
"He's got a personal problem that got him into trouble," Large said. "We're going to give him a chance to get some help."
Contact Kameel Stanley at (727) 893-8643 or firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow her @cornandpotatoes on Twitter.