When police officers are arrested for a DUI, they usually face more scrutiny than the average citizen who is caught driving drunk, and a recent incident in Miami, Florida serves as no exception.
According to the Miami Herald, 32-year-old Fernando Villa, a veteran officer in the Miami-Dade County police force, was discovered by his colleagues while off duty passed out in his patrol car in the middle of an intersection.
While this story is shocking enough, local officials are also disappointed by the actions of the arresting officers, who did not place Villa in jail after the incident. Their actions have spawned an internal investigation into the matter.
Sources indicate that another Miami police officer discovered Villa’s patrol car idling in the middle of an intersection around 8:20 p.m. on a Tuesday evening. The officer discovered Villa drunk and passed out in the driver’s seat of the idling car.
Upon discovering his inebriated colleague, the officer on the scene contacted his superiors for orders on how to handle the situation. According to the man he called, Police Director Jim Loftus, the officer was instructed to treat Villa “like everyone else.”
Typically, of course, someone accused of drunk driving is taken to jail and booked for the offense. Rarely are drunk drivers simply given warnings by police and allowed to casually drive home. In fact, under Florida law, drivers are released with a promise to appear in court only for low-level, or misdemeanor, DUI offenses.
Contrary to usual police policy, though, the officer who initially arrested Villa did not book the drunk driver, nor did he take him to jail. Instead, Villa signed a form promising that he would appear in court and he was allowed to go home, despite the fact that his offense was probably not a low-level DUI.
This action has drawn a considerable amount of scrutiny from local press, and in response to a public outcry, the Miami-Dade police department’s bureau of internal affairs has launched an investigation into the matter.
Again, the police director Jim Loftus maintains that he instructed the arresting officer to arrest and book Villa, without giving him any special treatment. Somewhere along the line, however, an office disobeyed this order and gave Villa special treatment.
According to Loftus, the police department plans to discover the identity of the “person or persons” who refused to follow their superior’s official advice, and “hold them accountable.”
Thus, it looks like a simple act by one police officer to offer special treatment to his colleague may prove to be very costly for the officer’s career.
Of course, Villa’s career is almost certainly in deeper trouble. Sources indicate that the officer has been relieved of his duties without pay while the police department completes its investigation into the matter