Semi­nole County deputy sus­pended for May DUI

Orlando Sentinel - - LOCAL & STATE - By Grace Toohey [email protected]­lan­dosen­

A Semi­nole County deputy was re­cently sus­pended for more than 20 days and stripped of her de­tec­tive ti­tle fol­low­ing a May DUI ar­rest af­ter she crashed her agency-is­sued ve­hi­cle in Apopka, records show.

Deputy Sher­iff Theresa Rodgers was sus­pended last month for 172 hours — about 21 8-hour shifts — fol­low­ing an in­ves­ti­ga­tion into the ar­rest, ac­cord­ing to a dis­ci­pline no­tice re­leased to the Or­lando Sen­tinel in re­sponse to a pub­lic records re­quest.

Rodgers, 52, was ar­rested for DUI af­ter Apopka po­lice of­fi­cers said she crashed into two guardrails about 11:30 p.m. May 22 on Mt. Ply­mouth Road.

Of­fi­cers found her “slumped over the center con­sole of the ve­hi­cle,” but she “even­tu­ally came to,” an ar­rest re­port said. Af­ter she was helped out of the ve­hi­cle, she said she had con­sumed al­co­hol, and one of­fi­cer noted he could smell al­co­hol on her breath, the re­port said.

An of­fi­cer later in­ter­viewed her at a San­ford hospi­tal, where Rodgers de­nied re­quests to per­form a field so­bri­ety test, breath test or blood test, the re­port said.

Rodgers told the of­fi­cer that she had been driv­ing north­bound on Mt. Ply­mouth Road when “she saw eyes from an an­i­mal and swerved … [and] did not re­mem­ber any­thing af­ter that,” the re­port said.

She said said that she had been at a bar in Sorrento be­fore the crash, where she had three glasses of wine, the re­port said.

“I ob­served her eyes to be blood­shot and glassy,” the of­fi­cer wrote in the re­port. “I could smell the odor of an al­co­holic bev­er­age emit­ting from her breath.”

Ac­cord­ing to the in­ves­ti­ga­tion, Rodgers was driv­ing north on Mt. Ply­mouth Road when she “failed to ma­neu­ver the curves in the road­way,” strik­ing the guardrail on the north side of the road, then “crossed the center line, en­ter­ing the south­bound traf­fic lane.”

Rodgers was not on duty at the time of the crash, but was driv­ing an SCSO ve­hi­cle, records show. She was not wear­ing a seat belt.

While Rodgers was ini­tially charged by the Or­ange-Osce­ola State At­tor­ney’s Of­fice with DUI, pros­e­cu­tors later de­clined to pur­sue the charge af­ter a judge found the Apopka of­fi­cer who ar­rested her acted out­side of his ju­ris­dic­tion, court records show.

Rodgers’ at­tor­ney, Stu­art Hy­man, had ar­gued that the Apopka po­lice of­fi­cer did not have the au­thor­ity to in­ter­ro­gate or ar­rest Rodgers in the San­ford hospi­tal, records show.

Hy­man said Tues­day that the judge’s de­ci­sion af­firmed “this was not a valid ar­rest.”

The in­ter­nal SCSO in­ves­ti­ga­tion, how­ever, found that Rodgers vi­o­lated poli­cies on con­duct un­be­com­ing a deputy and ve­hi­cle op­er­a­tion.

Rodgers “ad­mit­ted to drink­ing al­co­holic bev­er­ages and then driv­ing [her] de­part­ment is­sued ve­hi­cle,” the dis­ci­plinary let­ter said.

“Your ac­tions re­sult­ing in this vi­o­la­tion were un­ac­cept­able, placed mem­bers of the com­mu­nity at po­ten­tial risk and will not be tol­er­ated,” SCSO in­ves­ti­ga­tors wrote.

But Rodgers in­sisted the drinks not make her “im­paired to the point where I couldn’t drive” and said the crash was the re­sult of the an­i­mal, dis­ci­pline records show.

SCSO of­fi­cials ini­tially said they planned to ter­mi­nate Rodgers, not­ing in the let­ter that she a had prior dis­ci­plinary and crash his­tory, though de­tails about those in­stances were not in­cluded.

How­ever, the let­ter said SCSO of­fi­cials also con­sid­ered that Rodgers was re­morse­ful, and that the road­way where she crashed is known for ac­ci­dents. The let­ter also said Rodgers has done an “ex­cep­tional job serv­ing the el­derly mem­bers of our com­mu­nity” and has been with the agency for 24 years.

SCSO spokes­woman Kim Can­na­day said Rodgers most re­cently worked as a de­tec­tive in El­der Crimes.

In ad­di­tion to the 172-hour sus­pen­sion, Rodgers was stripped of her des­ig­na­tion as de­tec­tive and pro­hib­ited from us­ing agency ve­hi­cles. Can­na­day said Rodgers had com­pleted her sus­pen­sion as of Tues­day and has been re­as­signed to work in the Semi­nole County court­house.

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