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Tampa uncuffed

Deputies' commute can now be in cruiser

By SHANNON COLAVECCHIO-VAN SICKLER
Published March 10, 2005


The commute for Hillsborough sheriff's deputies who live outside the county just got easier.

Sheriff David Gee has reversed a longstanding policy that said deputies who live in neighboring counties such as Pasco and Pinellas cannot drive their patrol cars home.

"The sheriff's position is, it's a matter of convenience for deputies," Chief Deputy Jose Docobo, Gee's second in command, said. "Otherwise they'd have to drive their sheriff's vehicle to a district office and park it, then get into their vehicle to drive home."

On the locally run law enforcement chatboard www.leoaffairs.com deputies have been talking back and forth for months about wanting to drive patrol cars home across county lines - and hoping Gee, newly elected, would oblige them.

"Thank you, Sheriff!" a deputy wrote in a posting last week.

Deputies who live within Hillsborough County are already allowed to take their patrol cars home.

Now, Docobo said, deputies who live in neighboring counties - Pinellas, Pasco, Polk or Manatee - also can head home in their patrol vehicles. But they can only drive to and from work, and they'll have to reimburse the sheriff's office for mileage from their home to the Hillsborough County line.

Employees will pay the state rate for mileage, 34 cents, to be deducted once a month from their paychecks, Docobo said.

"He wanted to do this," Docobo said of the sheriff. "But he felt strongly that this had to be cost-neutral for taxpayers."

A handful of supervisors who live outside the county have been taking advantage of the new policy for the past month. Docobo did not have statistics on how many deputies live outside the county, but he said the majority of those who do call Pasco home.

A HAUNTING QUESTION: Sheriff's spokeswoman Debbie Carter and her assistant Velma Bean get all kinds of calls from reporters and residents seeking information and old case records.

But the one that came last week was just plain "bizarre," Bean said.

A woman called from Town 'N Country to say she suspected her mobile home was haunted, and could Bean and Carter help her verify that?

The woman explained that she moved not long ago to this mobile home, and had had "funny feelings" ever since, Bean said.

"She said something about how one day she was sitting on her bed and something knocked her off," Bean said.

The woman's neighbors told her that the property where her mobile home sits was the scene of a murder more than a decade ago. The female victim was a carnival worker who died at the hand of an ax-wielding murderer, the woman said neighbors told her.

So she wanted Bean and Carter to look up whether there had indeed been a murder. But she couldn't say for sure when the murder happened. Maybe 10 years ago, she told Bean. Then she reconsidered. Um, maybe 20 years, she said.

She happened to call on an unusually busy day, as Carter dealt with media inquiries into a pursuit that ended with a deputy fatally shooting a suspected armed burglar.

"I just told her we didn't have the time to look it up," Bean said. "It's a time-consuming search. So I told her to make an official records request.

"The whole thing was pretty bizarre," Bean said.

OFFICER LUNCHEON: The Tiger Bay Club will feature one of the county's top law enforcement officers as its luncheon speaker .

Tampa police Chief Steve Hogue will be there Friday.

Hogue said the Tiger Bay folks told him he would have to speak for only about 15 minutes, "but I figure that means there will be another half hour of questions."

Indeed, those Q&A sessions are what keep many people - reporters included - coming to the meetings.

The deadline has passed to sign up for Friday's lunch.

NAME FAUX PAS: For the record, Greta, it's pronounced Sheriff Gee - as in "Golly gee, sheriff!" Not Gee with a hard g sound, like in buggy and muggy.

Fox network host Greta Van Susteren, in an interview Tuesday night with Gee on her show On The Record, mispronounced the sheriff's last name.

Gentleman that he is, Gee didn't correct her.

"I've had that my entire life," Gee said Wednesday. "And you know, she came back after the break and apologized. It's small potatoes."

Shannon Colavecchio-Van Sickler can be reached at 813 226-3373 or svansickler@sptimes.com

[Last modified March 10, 2005, 20:31:36]


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