Here at Reason we highlight a lot of stories about law enforcement agencies that refuse, or are slow, to reprimand officers who abuse their powers. It's tempting, based on the first half of this report from the Tampa Bay Times, to praise the St. Petersburg Police Department for canning three cops who showed disregard for the law and the safety of the people they're tasked with protecting:
The board, chaired by St. Petersburg police Chief Chuck Harmon, fired Officer Mehmedin Karic, who struck and killed a man in a wheelchair with his police cruiser, and information technology employee Anthony Neese, who admitted to damaging a department laptop during a fight with his wife.
Another officer, Alex Falcon-Molina, resigned rather than face sanctions after the board found him responsible for a series of violations, including missing court-related matters.
Harmon said there are people in every organization who don't follow the rules.
"That's the reason we have these things," Harmon said. "To hold people accountable."
Neese was also viewing pornography on his computer, and Falcon-Molina falls into the category of cops who witness their colleagues do heinous crap and then provide cover. As for Karic: For killing someone while driving 61 MPH in a 40 mile-an-hour zone, he was fined $1,000, assigned 100 hours of community service, and lost his license for six months. He also lost his job. It's fair to say that if he hadn't been a cop, he probably would have lost his freedom.
So, kudos for losing those three. But the board also cleared two narcotics officers who reportedly kicked the crap out of a drug suspect who died several days later complaining of chest pains:
The detectives, whose names were redacted from a department memo because they work undercover, arrested Anthony "Tony" Welch Sr. while serving a search warrant Jan. 6.
Welch, 42, later complained that the detectives had kicked him during his arrest. On Jan. 10, after Welch's release from jail, he was taken to St. Anthony's Hospital and complained of chest pains and shortness of breath. He phoned the Police Department's internal affairs division from the hospital and reasserted his claims that the officers had kicked him. He died a few hours later.
An autopsy found that Welch died from natural causes resulting from a pre-existing condition, police said.