Make us your home page
Instagram

Today’s top headlines delivered to you daily.

(View our Privacy Policy)

Tampa police officials say lieutenant was fired for lying after complaining he was targeted for his race

TAMPA — A Tampa police lieutenant who filed a federal complaint saying he was a victim of racial discrimination has been fired because he was untruthful in that complaint, police officials said Friday.

Dwayne "D.J." Johnson, 42, who joined the force in 1994, was terminated Friday after an internal affairs investigation determined that he had misrepresented the reason he was put on administrative duty in March 2008.

Jeff Stull, Johnson's attorney, said he expects his client to appeal.

"We disagree with the findings of the Tampa Police Department, and we intend to pursue the due process rights through the grievance procedure," he said.

The Tampa Police Department maintains that Johnson was put on administrative duty after his ex-wife filed a temporary domestic violence injunction against him on March 7, 2008. The domestic court order restricted Johnson from possessing any guns, including his duty weapons, according to the internal affairs report.

Additionally, Johnson had been observed yelling at work, ordering other officers to arrest his ex-wife, police spokeswoman Laura McElroy said. As a result, Johnson was placed on administrative leave, stripped of permission to wear his uniform or drive his police car, and ordered to undergo psychological testing to evaluate his fitness for duty.

Johnson showed up at Dr. Vincent Skotko's office for the evaluation on March 10, 2008, but refused to sign paperwork allowing the results to be shared with his employer, records show.

Johnson's captain went to Skotko's office and ordered him "per the chief of police, you are to sign these releases and participate in this examination," according to a March 26, 2008, memo from then-Assistant Chief Jane Castor to then-Chief Steve Hogue.

Johnson reported that he was told he would be relieved of duty if he didn't sign the forms, according to Castor.

Johnson continued to refuse.

He then disobeyed his major's orders by going to Hogue's office, unsuccessfully demanding a meeting with him, then heading to Mayor Pam Iorio's office when he was told Hogue was unavailable, according to the report.

As Iorio entered the building, "Lt. Johnson immediately approached the mayor, blocked her path and engaged her in a brief but unsolicited and inappropriate conversation in full public view," the report states.

Iorio told Hogue.

Later, Johnson denied he was given orders by his major not to break command and go straight to Iorio, the department says.

When Johnson filed a complaint with the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission on March 13, 2008, he said he had been suspended from his job "unjustly and discriminatorily."

Johnson wrote in the complaint that the agency said it was stripping him of his powers because of "insubordination."

"However, this is only a blatant pretext, and the real reason is because of my race (African-American) and a perceived disability," his complaint states.

Johnson claimed that his ex-wife had told his employer that he was bipolar, resulting in the order to get a psychological evaluation. Johnson said in his EEOC complaint that he felt the information from any such screening should be confidential.

"My work performance is satisfactory," the complaint states. "I do not have a record of any behavior relating to bi-polar."

By April 3, 2008, police union representatives had reached an agreement with the city of Tampa regarding what information Skotko's office would release to the department.

A screening found Johnson fit for duty, and he returned to his position, a police spokeswoman said.

Personnel and internal affairs records show that Johnson had a history of disciplinary issues, including a 2001 demotion from corporal to officer, a position he regained through a grievance.

Through the years, Johnson climbed back up through the ranks, working most recently in District 1, which covers Tampa's peninsula, west side and Davis Islands areas.

Officers have responded to Johnson's house eight times in the past two years, including six times on "domestic disturbance" issues and once for a call classified simply as "disturbance," police records show.

When questioned about the wording of his statements to the EEOC, Johnson told internal affairs investigators that he believed the federal agency paraphrased his complaint and that, though he had signed it, he hadn't actually written it.

"The details in the … EEOC form provided by Lt. Johnson … are more than just misleading, they are untruthful," the internal affairs report concluded.

Another internal affairs report found that Johnson failed to take appropriate action after he was ordered to monitor the behavior of a corporal who appeared to be coming to work under the influence of drugs or alcohol. According to the department, six months passed before another lieutenant acting outside the chain of command confronted her about the issue.

Assistant Chief John Bennett said Johnson's termination is about integrity.

"Once you're sworn as a police officer," he said, "you have an extremely powerful position in the community. You have the right to take away someone's freedom. If, in any situation, you show that the integrity is in jeopardy, it has to be taken seriously."

Times researcher John Martin contributed to this report.

Tampa police officials say lieutenant was fired for lying after complaining he was targeted for his race 10/16/09 [Last modified: Friday, October 16, 2009 11:56pm]
Photo reprints | Article reprints

© 2017 Tampa Bay Times

    

Join the discussion: Click to view comments, add yours

Loading...
  1. Data breach exposes 469 Social Security numbers

    Corporate

    Social Security numbers for up to 469 people were exposed in a data breach at Florida the Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services. The breach, which the agency believes happened about two weeks ago, occurred in an online payments system, spokesperson Jenn Meale said Monday.

    Commissioner of Agriculture Adam Putnam on Monday that nearly 500 people may have had their Social Security numbers obtained in a data breach in his office.
[Times file photo]

  2. Trigaux: Can Duke Energy Florida's new chief grow a business when customers use less power?

    Energy

    Let's hope Harry Sideris has a bit of Harry Houdini in him.

    Duke Energy Florida president Harry Sideris laid out his prioriities for the power company ranging from improved customer service to the use of more large-scale solar farms to provide electricity. And he acknowledged a critical challenge: People are using less electricity these days. [SCOTT KEELER   |   Times]
  3. Editorial: Preserve wild Florida before it's too late

    Editorials

    The last dairy farm in Hillsborough County has milked its final cow, the pastures sold to developers who will build 1,000 new homes. The remnants of the last commercial citrus grove in Pinellas County, where the Sunshine State's famed industry began in the 19th century, were sold last year to make room for 136 homes. …

    As dairy farms and citrus groves disappear, much more needs to be done to avoid paving over Florida’s wild spaces.
  4. Florida concealed weapons permit holders exposed in computer hack

    Blogs

    More than 16,000 concealed weapons permit holders in Florida may have had their names accidently made public because of a data breach at the The Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services.

  5. Editorial: Careless words unfit for a mayor

    Editorials

    Even his critics marvel at how well Bob Buckhorn has grown into the job since first being elected as Tampa's mayor in 2011. His grace in public and his knack for saying and doing the right things has reflected well on the city and bestowed civic pride in the mayor's office. That's why Buckhorn's cheap shot at the media …

    Tampa Mayor Bob Buckhorn fires a .50 caliber machine gun from a rigid hull inflatable boat during a Special Operations Capabilities Demonstration at the Tampa Convention Center last year. [JAMES BORCHUCK   |   Times]