Friday, February 24, 2012

Local Deputy Suspended for Erasing Video Evidence

A Pinellas County deputy who ordered a DVR hard drive seized during a search warrant was suspended for 40 hours for violating agency policy. Sergeant Chris Taylor claimed that the video showed the faces of undercover detectives and ordered the erasure as a precautionary measure. A local attorney claims the reasons were more sinister and alleges the images would have shown deputies trespassing on his client’s property in an attempt to smell marijuana. This case is one of many involving surveillance conducted at Simply Hydroponics in Largo. The Sheriff's office had a surveillance camera aimed at the store parking lot which would record the license plate owners of its patrons. After deputies linked the plate to the registered owner, “spot checks” were conducted at their residence in an attempt to smell marijuana. Power records were also obtained from the target residence and other similarly sized residences in the neighborhood. A spot check revealed an odor of marijuana and the house was using more power than others in the area deputies would obtain a search warrant for the residence. Pinellas County Sheriff Bob Gualtieri admitted that Sergeant Taylor handled the situation in an improper manner but was quick to point out that there is no corroborating evidence that the deputies trespassed on any property.

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