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St. Petersburg officer suspended for leaving prisoner in van

ST. PETERSBURG — A short break will cost Officer Sandra Minor two days of pay.

That's because Minor left a prisoner — a college student in trouble over a speeding ticket — chained alone inside a police van while she stopped by a cafe and chatted with friends.

That violated agency policy, which is why the St. Petersburg Police Department said it will suspend Minor for two days without pay.

"We discovered she used some poor judgment," said police Chief Chuck Harmon.

Minor violated agency rules by engaging in conduct unbecoming an officer and being inefficient in her duties, according to a report released Thursday. The admonition is a minor blemish in the 22-year career of Minor, who has earned praise for her work with the homeless.

She's been in the headlines before. In 1996 she was partnered with Officer James Knight, who fatally shot TyRon Lewis during a traffic stop, sparking two days of disturbances.

The incident that led to her suspension started when Francesca Fretta, a 21-year-old political science and prelaw student at the University of South Florida, was pulled over Oct. 17 for speeding.

Within minutes she was in handcuffs, arrested on the rare charge of refusing to sign a citation. Officer John Douglas said she ignored repeated warnings to sign it.

Fretta fainted and was diagnosed at a local hospital with type-2 diabetes. Afterward, Fretta was taken to a prisoner transport van driven by Minor.

But instead of taking her directly to the Pinellas jail, Fretta said Minor drove the van to Cafe Ten-O-One at 1001 First Ave. N to wait for more prisoners.

Then Fretta said the officer left her handcuffed inside the air conditioned van and went into the cafe for 30 to 45 minutes.

By the time Fretta got to the jail, police said she was in Minor's custody for 58 minutes.

Minor said she left the prisoner alone for only 20 minutes and that Fretta never complained about her medical condition. The officer said she stopped by the cafe only to get a drink and checked on the prisoner.

But witnesses undermined that account.

Minor, 47, could not be reached for comment on Thursday. She has 10 days to appeal.

St. Petersburg officer suspended for leaving prisoner in van 02/19/09 [Last modified: Friday, February 20, 2009 9:14pm]
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