The Pinellas County Sheriff's Office — beset by turmoil in its narcotics unit and north county patrol division — transferred its top internal investigator Thursday.
Capt. Greg Handsel has moved from overseeing the Administrative Investigations Division to Child Protection Investigations, Sheriff Bob Gualtieri said.
Capt. Tim Pelella, who heads the child protection team, has taken over internal investigations.
"I wanted a fresh set of eyes on everything,'' Gualtieri said.
Prosecutors have recently had to drop about 18 cases against suspected marijuana growers amid allegations that narcotics detectives illegally trespassed to gather evidence.
In one case, Seminole resident Allen Underwood complained that his digital recording security system had captured deputies jumping his fence and trespassing but that deputies seized his recorder and erased the images.
The Tampa Bay Times analyzed how internal affairs examined that complaint under Handsel's watch and found that investigators asked leading questions, failed to resolve conflicting testimony and failed to ask critical questions. That complaint is now being re-investigated on Gualtieri's orders.
Gualtieri said Thursday's move was not a negative reflection on Handsel, "but I think it was better that when we are re-investigating Underwood and all these other allegations that we have someone overseeing it who was not involved in the past and provide a fresh perspective.''
For several weeks, internal affairs has concentrated on wrapping up a six-month investigation of deputies on the north county midnight shift who were fired this week amid allegations of excessive loafing. State law requires that investigations wind up within 180 days and that deadline was approaching, he said.
Now he expects to focus more attention on the narcotics unit.