Tuesday, June 19, 2018
Editorials

Editorial: Clearwater officer who drove after drinking should have been tested, charged

No driver, particularly an off-duty police officer, should drive while intoxicated, and two of his experienced superiors should know it's not their job to cover for him. Clearwater Police Chief Tony Holloway should make sure that the lenient punishment the trio received in an unreported January traffic stop is not mistaken for looking the other way. Holloway changed department policy following this sorry incident, and he will need to be sure it's actually enforced.

Early on Jan. 23, several people called police to report a man so drunk he could barely walk had left a Clearwater Beach bar and drove off in a Camaro. Callers told dispatchers the car was weaving on Clearwater Memorial Causeway and nearly crashed into a taxi.

Two Clearwater police sergeants, David Young, 48, and Sean Allaster, 43, stopped the Camaro on the mainland and found at the wheel an off-duty colleague, Officer Nicholas Capogna. Capogna, 29, wasn't made to walk the line or perform other tests to determine how seriously he was impaired. Nor was he arrested.

Instead, the sergeants decided to drive him home and failed to report the incident, even to their commanding officers, who found out about it when a witness posted a comment on the Police Department's Facebook page four days later.

Last week, the department completed a three-month internal affairs investigation of the incident. Capogna was recommended for a five-day suspension. Provided the recommendation is approved by City Manager Bill Horne, he will lose one week's pay for drinking and driving and putting innocent people's lives at risk on the road. He'll also be required to receive counseling and will be subject to random drug testing.

The department command staff, consisting of the chief, deputy chief and three majors, voted 3-2 to give sergeants Young and Allaster a one-day suspension. But after Holloway reviewed the officers' files and saw that each had worked more than 20 years without any disciplinary action, he reduced the recommendation to a letter of reprimand. While a reprimand is a lesser punishment on the discipline hierarchy, it means neither officer will be eligible for a promotion or transfer for two years.

Perhaps most important is that Holloway, who said he was shocked by the sergeants' decision, is now removing officers' discretion to decide when field sobriety tests will be administered. Under the new policy, those tests must be conducted any time officers suspect a driver is intoxicated. Also, if police stop a city employee for impaired driving, they must notify the employee's department head.

Those policy changes should prevent repeats of the disappointing lack of judgment displayed by the sergeants in handling this situation — but only if Holloway ensures the changes are carried out by his department. Capogna is fortunate that the incident ended in just embarrassment for him and his department, not a drunken driving charge or worse, a loss of life.

Comments
Editorial: Trump should stop taking children away from parents at the border

Editorial: Trump should stop taking children away from parents at the border

Innocent children should not be used as political pawns. That is exactly what the Trump administration is doing by cruelly prying young children away from their parents as these desperate families cross the Mexican border in search of a safer, better...
Updated: 3 hours ago

Editorial: ATF should get tougher on gun dealers who violate the law

Gun dealers who break the law by turning a blind eye to federal licensing rules are as dangerous to society as people who have no right to a possess a firearm in the first place. Yet a recent report shows that the federal agency responsible for polic...
Published: 06/17/18
Updated: 06/18/18
Editorial: Encouraging private citizens to step up on transit

Editorial: Encouraging private citizens to step up on transit

The new grass-roots effort to put a transportation package before Hillsborough County voters in November faces a tough slog. Voters rejected a similar effort in 2010, and another in 2016 by elected officials never made it from the gate. But the lates...
Published: 06/15/18
Editorial: 40 years later, honoring remarkable legacy of Nelson Poynter

Editorial: 40 years later, honoring remarkable legacy of Nelson Poynter

Forty years ago today, Nelson Poynter died. He was the last individual to own this newspaper, and to keep the Times connected to this community, he did something remarkable. He gave it away.In his last years, Mr. Poynter recognized that sooner or lat...
Published: 06/15/18

There was no FBI anti-Trump conspiracy

The Justice Department released Thursday the highly anticipated report on the FBI’s handling of the Hillary Clinton email probe and other sensitive issues in the 2016 election. It is not the report President Donald Trump wanted. But there is enough i...
Published: 06/14/18
Updated: 06/15/18

Voter purge may be legal, but it’s also suppression

The Supreme Court’s ruling last Monday to allow Ohio’s purging of its voter rolls is difficult to dispute legally. While federal law prohibits removing citizens from voter rolls simply because they haven’t voted, Ohio’s purge is slightly different. T...
Published: 06/14/18
Updated: 06/15/18

Editorial: Free rides will serve as a test of whether the streetcar is serious transportation

Who wouldn’t jump at the chance to ride for free?This fall, the TECO Streetcar Line eliminates its $2.50-a-ride-fare, providing the best opportunity yet to see whether the system’s vintage streetcar replicas can serve as a legitimate transportation a...
Published: 06/14/18
Updated: 06/15/18

AT&T and the case for digital innovation

A good way to guarantee you’ll be wrong about something is to predict the future of technology. As in, "One day, we’ll all …" Experts can hazard guesses about artificial intelligence, driverless cars or the death of cable television, but technologica...
Published: 06/14/18
Editorial: State, nonprofits share obligation to help Hillsborough’s foster kids

Editorial: State, nonprofits share obligation to help Hillsborough’s foster kids

The Florida Department of Children and Families has correctly set a quick deadline for Hillsborough County’s main child welfare provider to correct its foster care program. For too long the same story has played out, where troubled teens who need fos...
Published: 06/14/18
Editorial: Educate voters on Amendment 4 and restoring felons’ rights

Editorial: Educate voters on Amendment 4 and restoring felons’ rights

This fall voters will have 13 constitutional amendments to wade through on the ballot, but Amendment 4 should get special focus. It represents a rare opportunity to rectify a grievous provision in the Florida Constitution, which permanently revokes t...
Published: 06/13/18
Updated: 06/14/18