Make us your home page

Today’s top headlines delivered to you daily.

(View our Privacy Policy)

Police union officials to monitor Pinellas sheriff's new DUI policy

A day after the Pinellas County Sheriff's Office announced that any employee charged with drunken driving would be fired, police union officials said they would be monitoring the new policy as DUI cases emerge.

Michael Krohn, executive director of the Suncoast Police Benevolent Association, said Tuesday that the union, which represents about 500 of the Sheriff's Office's roughly 2,700 employees, understands the need for the stricter policy.

"To come to work to lose your job is definitely a harsh enforcement. But we also understand they are in the career of enforcing the law, not breaking the law," Krohn said. "The sheriff tries his best to be fair."

Nonetheless, the union will be keeping watch of the policy and its application to new DUI cases, Krohn said. As of Tuesday, he had not heard of any concerns from union members about the new rule.

"There could be some potential gray areas that could develop," he added.

On Monday, Sheriff Bob Gualtieri sent an email to all employees to announce that anyone within the agency driving with a blood-alcohol level above the state's 0.08 limit, or convicted of a DUI in a criminal proceeding, would be fired.

If the employee doesn't resign, internal affairs will swiftly begin an inquiry that will conclude within a few days. Deputies under investigation will be barred from working on the streets.

The discipline in each case: termination.

In the past, the range of discipline for a Sheriff's Office employee charged with a DUI ranged from a seven-day suspension to termination. But amid a recent rash of drunken driving arrests among Sheriff's Office employees, including a 19-year veteran, Gualtieri opted for a more severe discipline.

He is not the first sheriff within Tampa Bay to implement a similar, strict policy. Upon taking office in 2004, Hillsborough County Sheriff David Gee ordered that any employee charged with a DUI immediately be suspended without pay and, regardless of a conviction, be terminated, or given the opportunity to resign or retire after due process.

"He expects a higher standard of his deputies and because of that, he's going to have zero tolerance," said Larry McKinnon, Hillsborough Sheriff's Office spokesman. "It's a choice that you make. It just symbolizes your decision-making abilities to consciously get in a car and drive home after you've been out drinking to the point that you're impaired."

Other law enforcement agencies within Tampa Bay, including the Clearwater Police Department and the Pasco County Sheriff's Office, don't have specific DUI policies but discipline employees on a case-by-case basis.

The same goes for St. Petersburg police, said spokesman Bill Proffitt, adding that investigators look at a number of factors.

"Was there a crash involved? Any other degree of damage and injury involved?" he said. "Was the officer remorseful? There's a whole list of things that would be taken into consideration."

At the Hernando County Sheriff's Office, spokeswoman Denise Moloney said internal affairs investigations into DUI arrests are not launched until the criminal case is closed, during which time employees are typically placed on administrative leave.

Termination, Moloney added, is "always a viable, if not likely, option."

Contact Laura C. Morel at or (727)445-4157.

Police union officials to monitor Pinellas sheriff's new DUI policy 11/12/13 [Last modified: Tuesday, November 12, 2013 10:05pm]
Photo reprints | Article reprints

© 2017 Tampa Bay Times


Join the discussion: Click to view comments, add yours

  1. Bullpen melts down as Rays lose to Orioles (w/video)

    The Heater

    ST. PETERSBURG — Jacob Faria allowed his first two big-league home runs and was touched for a career-high three runs Saturday by the Orioles. Other than that, the rookie making his fourth major-league start did okay against the Baltimore bats.

    The bullpen, not so much.

    Tampa Bay Rays relief pitcher Jumbo Diaz wipes his face as he walks off the mound after the Baltimore Orioles scored four runs during the eighth inning of a baseball game Saturday, June 24, 2017, in St. Petersburg, Fla. (AP Photo/Chris O'Meara) SPD118
  2. Lightning shifts search for defense to free agency

    Lightning Strikes

    CHICAGO — As much as he tried, Lightning general manager Steve Yzerman left the weekend's draft without acquiring another top-four defenseman.

    Tampa Bay Lightning general manager Steve Yzerman gestures as he speaks to the media about recent trades during a news conference before an NHL hockey game against the Carolina Hurricanes Wednesday, March 1, 2017, in Tampa, Fla. The Lightning, over the past few days, have traded goaltender Ben Bishop to the Los Angeles Kings, forward Brian Boyle to the Toronto Maple Leafs, and forward Valtteri Filppula to the Philadelphia Flyers. (AP Photo/Chris O'Meara) TPA101
  3. Half of Florida lawmakers fail or nearly fail review of support for public records

    State Roundup

    WEST PALM BEACH — Half of Florida's legislators failed or nearly failed in a review of their support for public records and meetings given by Florida newspapers and an open-government group after this year's legislative sessions.

    State Senator Bill Galvano, R- Bradenton (left) and Florida House Speaker Richard Corcoran ranked on opposite sides of the spectrum in an analysis of support for open records. Galvano scored a B-minus and Corcoran scored a D-plus.
[Times file photo]
  4. Yale dean on leave over offensive Yelp reviews leaves post

    Bizarre News

    NEW HAVEN, Conn. — A Yale University dean who was placed on leave over offensive reviews she posted on Yelp has left her position at the Ivy League institution, school officials said Tuesday.

  5. Federal agencies demand records from SeaWorld theme park


    ORLANDO — Two federal agencies are reportedly demanding financial records from SeaWorld.

    Killer whales Ikaika and Corky participate in behaviors commonly done in the wild during SeaWorld's Killer Whale educational presentation in this photo from Jan. 9. SeaWorld has been subpoenaed by two federal agencies for comments that executives and the company made in August 2014 about the impact from the "Blackfish" documentary. 
[Nelvin C. Cepeda/San Diego Union-Tribune/TNS]