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Pinellas jail deputy suspended for Taser misuse

LARGO — Apparently you're not allowed to use a stun gun as an alarm clock — even in jail.

That's what one Pinellas County detention deputy was reminded of after a July incident where he tried to wake up an inmate by crackling a Taser stun gun near the inmate's head.

Deputy Michael Kenefic, 32, received a 15-day suspension for the events the morning of July 27.

According to an internal affairs report, Kenefic was having trouble with inmate, Robert McAllister, who had been waiting a long time in the intake section of the jail.

McAllister, 54, was facing DUI crash and drug charges. At one point during the night, McAllister went to sleep on the floor in the seating area. Kenefic came over and told him he was required to stay in his seat.

At 7 a.m., Kenefic noticed that McAllister was sleeping on the ground again, according to the internal affairs report.

That's when Kenefic decided to try something different.

He mentioned to a deputy nearby that he bet he could wake up the inmate with the sound of the stun gun cycling through.

Another deputy remembers Kenefic saying, "Watch this."

Kenefic, a three-year veteran of the agency, took out his Taser, removed the prongs, and walked across the floor to where McAllister was sleeping.

He bent down and let the Taser crackle for a few seconds.

Amazingly, it did not wake up the inmate.

Other detention deputies came over to find out what was going on. McAllister eventually did wake up; he was evaluated and found uninjured.

When Kenefic was confronted by internal affairs investigators, Kenefic said the inmate had been verbally abusive toward him the night before and that he never intended to harm the inmate.

It turns out, however, that you're not supposed to use the Taser willy-nilly.

The internal affairs investigators consulted Cpl. Timothy Knight, one of the trainers at the jail.

"A show of force cannot happen unless they are very close to active physical resistance," Knight said.

They asked Knight whether the Taser can be used for the sole purpose of intimidation.

"Absolutely not," Knight said.

Kenefic said this was his first time using the Taser — except for battery checks.

"I never had any intention on actually applying the Taser to him, physically to him," Kenefic said. "It was just at the time … a quick decision that was bad judgment."

Kenefic's 15-day suspension includes a charge of misconduct for falsifying a report. But Kenefic said that any incorrect information he gave was accidental.

Jonathan Abel can be reached at jabel@sptimes.com or (727) 445-4157.

Pinellas jail deputy suspended for Taser misuse 11/07/08 [Last modified: Tuesday, November 11, 2008 7:17pm]
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