Sergeant fired over antics at bar party
The police chief cites her recent disciplinary record as an important factor in his decision to end a 23-year police career.
By JACOB H. FRIES
Published January 4, 2006
LARGO - A veteran police sergeant was fired Tuesday for letting a subordinate officer spray whipped cream on her neck and chest and lick it off at a birthday party, police officials said.
Sgt. Joan Short, 42, a 23-year veteran, jeopardized public confidence in the department during an Oct. 21 gathering at the Green Iguana bar in St. Petersburg, an internal investigation found.
The party was to mark the 30th birthday of Officer Melinda DeKyle, who received a 10-day suspension for her part in the incident.
Twice during the party, Short allowed DeKyle to lick the cream from just below her collarbone while two other Largo officers watched, investigators found. Also, at one point, the sergeant was photographed with another woman grabbing her breasts.
Short might have avoided being fired if not for her disciplinary record, said Deputy Chief John Carroll. Since 2004, she has been cited three times for disrespectful behavior, with one of the incidents resulting in a five-day suspension in December.
"The real shame is that she's an extremely talented officer," Carroll said.
Short and DeKyle could not be reached for comment Tuesday.
The internal probe began in early December after rumors about the incident reached Carroll, he said.
Short told investigators she arrived at the bar with two other Largo officers about 10 p.m. She said she had three beers, several glasses of water and a shot of Jagermeister.
DeKyle then sprayed the chocolate-flavored whipped cream, which she had received in a gift basket, investigators said.
"I didn't know what to do when it was done to me," Short told police officials. "It was no big deal at the time. . . . It was her just being silly and intoxicated and I didn't want to make a scene."
Short's supervisors recommended to Chief Lester Aradi that she receive a five-day suspension and lose her rank as sergeant.
But Aradi decided on the more severe punishment.
"With all the sensitivity to supervisor-subordinate relations and the conduct of employees, the chief has been very clear about what his expectations are," Carroll said. "He felt that this situation warranted termination."
After the party, Short left the Green Iguana at 2 a.m. with boyfriend Robert Wojociechowski, a Pinellas County sheriff's deputy, she told investigators. Largo police Officer Albin Soto ended up pulling their car over on suspicion that Wojociechowski was driving under the influence.
Soto let them go, with Short replacing Wojociechowski at the wheel, detectives said. Carroll said he was satisfied that Soto was sufficiently diligent in his investigation.
"This guy makes those decisions every night on the street," he said.
The Pinellas County Sheriff's Office said they were notified Tuesday of the alleged incident involving Wojociechowski and were reviewing it.
[Last modified January 4, 2006, 01:07:18]
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