Pinellas Sheriff busts officers for "extreme loafing"

The Sheriff says the deputies intentionally concealed their cruisers, disconnected their agency-required GPS, and left their assigned areas in order to go home, visit family, or idle in other locations. They responded to calls if dispatched, but did not initiate any law enforcement action for hours at a time. One even watched a movie while working (unfortunately the press release doesn't indicate what that flick was).

Gualtieri said, "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. 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.

Deputy Kenneth L. Burroughs, a 15-year member of the Pinellas County Sheriff's office, was reported to have taken off 285 hours, or 35/8 hour work days of inactivity between July and January of last year.

Deputy Robert G. Harmer, who was hired in June of 1990, was "idling and loafing" on 180 instances between that time period.

Deputy Samuel Mitchem, who would be observing his 18th year on the job on Wednesday, was busted for 212 absences, or 39 8-hour work days.

Sergeant Christopher W. Metro, hired 21 years ago, was busted for failing to supervise squad members, as well as "failure to use available technology and other tools to monitor staff activities, leaving his area of assignment and idling, going to personal residence, 10 instances in all of idling of at least one hour each, having knowledge of the deputies' idling and failure to act. Admitted to watching a movie while on duty."

In a statement, Sheriff Gualtieri said,

"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.

Through this adversity, I remain proud of the Pinellas County Sheriff's Office and its members and recognize that the misconduct by these deputies is inconsistent with the fine work performed daily by the majority of the 2,800 members of the Pinellas County Sheriff's Office."

Former Pinellas Sheriff Everett Rice now has another campaign issue to attack Gualtieri with.

We have to be honest. As reporters for this publication, we're sometimes met with incredulity when we mention that we represent an entity called Creative Loafing.

While those who know the publication (either here or in our other Southern locales) are often complimentary, others express befuddlement. And there are those who chuckle somewhat condescendingly, saying they'd love to be able to "creatively loaf."

That's why a press release we received today struck a responsive chord. Issued Tuesday afternoon by the Pinellas County Sheriff's Department, the release had the headline, "Three Deputies And One Sergeant Fired Based On Sustained Charges Of Extreme Loafing and Idling."

Yeah, these guys were loafing. And not just any old loafing — they were charged with extreme loafing. Whether they were doing so creatively or not is up for you to decide. But with all of the other heat on Sheriff Bob Gualtieri regarding allegations that narcotics deputies trespassed and lied to gather evidence on marijuana growers, this is the last thing he needs to contend with.

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