Tampa police officer retired early after acting 'belligerent' while cutting line at Busch Gardens

TPD Captain Ashley Roberts retired in October of last year during an Internal Affairs investigation into her behavior.

click to enlarge Entrance sign at Tampa Police Department headquarters. - Photo via JHVEPhoto/Adobe
Photo via JHVEPhoto/Adobe
Entrance sign at Tampa Police Department headquarters.

A Tampa Police Department Captain retired early during an investigation into how she drunkenly tried to use TPD identification to cut the line onto a Busch Gardens ride, then pushed an employee and cussed out a fellow officer last October.

On Oct. 24, 2021, TPD Captain Ashley Roberts was off duty, drunk, and tried to go to the front of the line for the "Cobra's Curse" roller coaster, according to findings presented to Tampa's Citizen Review Board (CRB). A line attendant told her it was against the rules, and that she needed a "quick queue" pass cut to the front of lines at the park.

Busch Gardens visitors usually  pay $15-$20 on top of regular park entrance fees to get such a pass, but Roberts and her two guests (who were not TPD officers) wanted to forego the cost the average citizen has to pay.

The employee wasn't having it, and Roberts got physical.

"When an employee asked for her quick queue pass, she pulled out her TPD badge wallet, minus her badge, and said that was her quick queue pass, " Jason Degagne, an Internal Affairs detective who investigated the case told the CRB on May 24.

"When the employee went on the radio to report that Captain Roberts and her party did not have the correct passes, she pushed by him in order to get on the ride," Degagne continued. "He alerted security and Tampa Police officers to stop her once they got off the ride."

After Roberts and her two guests pulled in from their rollercoaster ride, Roberts was confronted by Busch Gardens security and a fellow TPD officer. Degagne said she became "belligerent and disrespectful" to her colleague.
"She even used foul derogatory language when addressing that particular police officer," Degagne said. "She was subsequently ejected from the park."

An Internal Affairs investigation was initiated and just two days later, on Oct. 26 2021, Roberts took an early retirement.

The investigation found that Roberts was in violation of three department policies: standard of conduct, abuse of position or identification, and rules about alcohol consumption.

The CRB voted unanimously that the board agreed with the findings of the IA investigation.

Although she retired before the investigation was complete, Roberts still received her full retirement benefits from the department, according to Degagne.

The findings  of the investigation were presented verbally by Degagne to the CRB on May 24—seven months after the incident occurred.  The CRB—created under former Mayor Bob Buckhorn, and criticized as toothless—can only review closed IA cases.
Degagne said that the employee who was pushed by Roberts was approached by TPD and asked if he wanted to press charges, but denied to do so, saying the ejection from the park was satisfactory. He also said that Busch Gardens chose not to trespass Roberts, just to eject her for that day.

CL reached out to the Busch Gardens media team to confirm what the police say about the situation, as well as TPD for more documentation on the matter.

TPD has not yet responded to the question of how often officers that are under Internal Affairs investigations can retire in the midst of them and still receive their full benefits.

"She [Roberts] did have a pretty good little time there, it appears, with her behavior."

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Dr. Carolyn Collins, who sits on the CRB, said that she hopes that Roberts wasn't given preferential treatment by her fellow officers or by Busch Gardens, and that she hopes anyone who may find themselves in Roberts' situation is treated equally.

"Others might have been trespassed from the park, or maybe, if they're doing something wrong, be arrested," Collins said. "She [Roberts] did have a pretty good little time there, it appears, with her behavior."

About The Author

Justin Garcia

Justin Garcia has written for The Nation, Investigative Reporters & Editors Journal, the USA Today Network and various other news outlets. When he's not writing, Justin likes to make music, read, play basketball and spend time with loved ones. 

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