A Pinellas County Sheriff’s Office deputy has been fired after an internal affairs investigation found that he sexually harassed a coworker.
Deputy Timothy Lafave, 48, was fired Monday. He had been with the agency since 2009 and was assigned to a unit that works primarily at the courthouse and jail.
Lafave began harassing the coworker, a young woman who was new to the agency, in April 2022, the internal affairs investigation found. While training for her job, she noticed that Lafave liked to be close to her and had “a fond(ness) for staring” at her, according to a sheriff’s office news release.
Other agency members also noticed Lafave inappropriately staring at her, according to the sheriff’s office. She described Lafave as “creepy” and “weird” in conversations with coworkers, though no one reported the misconduct at the time, the sheriff’s office news release states.
In the fall of 2022, Lafave bought prepaid tickets for a hockey game for some of the sheriff’s office employees, including the female coworker. The outing was a personal gathering and not an event sponsored by the agency.
On Oct. 18, Lafave was assigned to take inmates from the jail to the courthouse. After he finished, he went to the scanning area where the coworker was doing screenings. He gave her an unwanted side hug and asked her about the hockey game, according to the sheriff’s office. The woman did not report Lafave to her superiors at the time.
The next day, Lafave approached the woman from behind while she was working at the scanning area again and began massaging her shoulders, the investigation found. He hugged her and she made an effort to lean away. Keeping his right hand on her upper body, he massaged her back, according to the sheriff’s office. The woman said Lafave called her “babe” and asked her about payment for the hockey ticket.
Another deputy saw this interaction and reported it to supervisors, which started the internal affairs investigation. Footage of both October incidents was captured on courthouse surveillance cameras. The coworker said Lafave’s actions made her feel “uncomfortable” and “embarrassed,” according to the sheriff’s office news release.
During the internal affairs investigation, Lafave admitted to giving the coworker unwanted hugs and massaging her shoulder and back. He said “she was new, I’m just trying to get a feel for her as a person, as a coworker” and that he was acting from a “fatherly standpoint” and trying to make her “feel welcome,” the news release states.
“Deputy Lafave’s attempted justifications during the investigative interviews were lies in an effort to mitigate his misconduct,” the sheriff’s office said in the news release.
During a final interview, Lafave admitted his behavior was inappropriate and unprofessional, according to the sheriff’s office.
“Deputy Lafave’s actions toward the female agency member were wrong and in violation of PCSO policy,” the news release states.