A sheriff in southwest Florida has fired four veteran deputies for violating general orders and policy by shirking their official duties.
According to Pinellas County Sheriff Bob Gualtieri, the men intentionally concealed their patrol vehicles and disconnected agency-required GPS tracking devices. They would then allegedly leave their assigned areas and go home or to other locations.
The deputies did respond to calls when they were dispatched, but failed to initiate any law enforcement action for hours at a time. One of the deputies is also accused of watching a movie while on the clock, according to police.
"These deputies, by their intentional actions, essentially cheated the taxpayers out of well over $24,600 during the time of the investigation, which was from July 1, 2011, to December 31, 2011," Gualtieri said. "We believe our findings are a snapshot of what was going on for a longer period of time. This is behavior that will not be tolerated, and they are being held accountable."
Two other deputies received suspensions for similar activities. Charges against a seventh deputy, who had been named in the original investigation, were unsubstantiated.
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The deputies who lost their jobs have been identified as 15-year veteran Kenneth Burroughs, 42; 21-year veteran Robert Harmer, 42; 17-year veteran Samuel Mitchem, 42; and 20-year veteran Christopher Metro, 43.
The men were officially fired Monday for "sustained charges of excessive loafing and idling." Afterward, Gualtieri sent out a statement notifying members of the Pinellas County Sheriff's Office. He wrote, "Although public safety is always our first consideration, the taxpayers of Pinellas County deserve to know that their tax dollars, which are our salaries, are earned by each of us every day through the provision of effective law enforcement services."
Gualtieri said the misconduct by the deputies is "inconsistent with the fine work performed daily by the majority of the 2,800 members of the Pinellas County Sheriff's Office."