Tampa police sent a strong message Friday about integrity and leadership by firing a police supervisor involved in a DUI setup arrest earlier this year. The FBI and the Florida Bar need to show the same seriousness in their broader investigations of the case.
Tampa police fired Sgt. Ray Fernandez, a 19-year veteran and former supervisor of the DUI squad, for his role in the arrest of Tampa attorney C. Philip Campbell in January. Campbell was taken into custody after a paralegal for a rival law firm bought him drinks in a downtown Tampa bar, all while communicating with her bosses, one of whom was a friend of Fernandez. The two exchanged 92 text messages as the officer waited outside in the hours leading up to and after Campbell's arrest.
A special prosecutor assigned to the case, Pinellas-Pasco State Attorney Bernie McCabe, dropped the DUI charge, saying Campbell did not seem impaired and calling out the "worrisome behavior" of the rival law firm and police. Fernandez says he was unaware of the connection and his attorney vows he will fight for his job. That's fine; the more light on this episode, the better. But the department was right in pressing for the toughest disciplinary action. Now the FBI and the Florida Bar need to find who is responsible for this abuse of authority and the legal system.