Cops Fired For Destroying Drugs From Low-Level Users, Cutting Them Loose

Two Tampa officers were fired for throwing away small quantities of drugs instead of disposing of them properly.

Tampa, FL – Two Tampa police officers were fired for tossing small amounts of drugs found on suspects into the trash rather than writing a report and disposing of them properly.

The investigation began when a citizen filed a complaint against Tampa Police Officers John Laratta and Mark Landry in September of 2018, the Tampa Bay Times reported.

When investigators reviewed Officer Laratta’s bodycam video in the course of investigating, they discovered that he had violated department policy and turned the camera off just before the interaction with the angry citizen.

That made investigators go a step further and pull up all of the officer’s bodycam footage dating back to May 15, 2018 to see how often he had been turning off the camera, the Tampa Bay Times reported.

Tampa Police Chief Brian Dugan said they found a pattern of policy violations that included failures to document detentions and searches, failure to properly dispose of seized drugs, inattention to duty, and discourtesy to the public.

Chief Dugan told reporters at a press conference on May 2 that he was initially most concerned about what the officers were doing with the contraband drugs they were taking away from suspects but not booking into evidence, the Tampa Bay Times reported.

Investigators drug tested the officers, and then tried to determine if they were selling the drugs or planting them on other suspects.

"We have no reason to believe any of that took place," Chief Dugan said.

Both Officers Landry and Laratta tested clean, the Tampa Bay Times reported.

The chief said the investigation concluded that the two officers just had not bothered to properly document the small drug seizures.

"I think they had a mentality that there were bigger fish to fry," Chief Dugan said. "They were making a lot of big arrests because they weren't documenting the small stuff."

Those officers worked with Officer Algenis Maceo on District 3 street patrol, which covers Ybor City and most of Tampa, the Tampa Bay Times reported.

Officers Landry and Laratta were suspended in November of 2018. Officer Maceo was suspended in February, also for actions revealed by Officer Laratta’s bodycam.

All three officers were terminated by the Tampa Police Department on May 2, the Tampa Bay Times reported.

“They have embarrassed our police department," Chief Dugan told reporters. “If we want to have credibility as a department, and I want credibility as chief of police, I have to take these things seriously.”

The terminated officers have 21 days to contest their termination through their union.

“We disagree with the chief's decision to terminate these officers,” Tampa Police Business Association (PBA) President Abe Carmack in a press release. “The Tampa PBA is in the process of reviewing the facts of each case and is prepared to take appropriate action in accordance with the Collective Bargaining Agreement after all circumstances are considered."

Chip Purcell, the attorney for all three of the officers who were fired, said he was surprised by the terminations, Spectrum News reported.

"None of what these officers have been charged with would warrant a dismissal or a termination," Purcell said. "They’re policy violations.”

It's not clear what would cause any officer to get fired other than a policy violation.

Police said the seven-month-long investigation of Officer Laratta’s bodycam video involved the review of 349 separate incidents.

Investigators found that Officer Laratta had violated bodycam policy on 22 occasions, according to the Tampa Bay Times.

As a result of the investigation into Officer Laratta’s bodycam, seven other officers were caught breaking department policies and were disciplined, including letters of counseling and oral admonishments.

The chief said that none of the 10 officers who were disciplined or fired committed a criminal act, but he said they had all violated department policies.

Comments (23)
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AnnykaV
AnnykaV

What's crazy is that activist DAs do a version of this all the time. Wonder what the prosecution rate is in that county for those amounts?

Sargejh
Sargejh

Cops been throwing weed away for years. It’s become so decriminalized that it’s just a waste of time. I used to make a kid dump it on ground and stomp it out. But that was before body cams and all this political correctness bullshit.

NFPD103
NFPD103

Sadly it's the new way of the Administration to fire officers, no criminal activity is found so hit them with administrative policy violation charges. it goes something like this .first, put the word out don't arrest anyone for small amounts of drugs, but do the paperwork as if you did make an arrest and collect the drugs that way it looks like we are dealing with the drug issues in the community. if you don't we will find a reason to fire you on policy issues alone. To the officer this, in short means, you are security guard now don't do anything to upset the balance the political powers & SJW are trying to achieve while avoiding ACTUAL LAWS being violated by citizens who have accepted a certain amount of criminal behavior as being acceptable in their communities.

DavidPeoria
DavidPeoria

It looks like a lot of people did not read the whole article. There was a whole bunch of other violations being committed by the officers.

Old Hawg
Old Hawg

If we had body cams when I was a cop I'd be right there with those guys. I NEVER locked up anyone for possession of small amounts of drugs, usually marijuana. I'd dump it on the ground, scuff it around in the dirt, and then tell the guy I took it from he could keep it if he wanted to sift it out of the dirt. Knowing that the judge would usually sentence the guy to probation before judgment, it simply wasn't worth the time off the street to fill out all of the paperwork involved in a drug arrest.

Blue155
Blue155

"I think they had a mentality that there were bigger fish to fry," Chief Dugan said. "They were making a lot of big arrests because they weren't documenting the small stuff."

So Chief would you rather have your cops bogged down on the petty crimes and paperwork that will go absolutely nowhere? These cops were making big arrests as you acknowledged. I’d much rather have the cops in my community making the big arrests. This is what really helps keep a community safe.

Heck any cop worth his salt isn’t gonna get bogged down on paperwork that will have absolutely no consequences in the busy court system. Cops toss small amounts of dope all the time. A good cop uses that as leverage to get the small time user to give up some valuable info such as who is his supplier or who is breaking into cars, houses, etc. This might explain why these cops shut off their body cameras. Last thing you need is a small time drug user snitching on camera, that’s just asking for a death sentence.

Sounds like these cops are doing what every good street level cop does everyday. IMHO.

HAWAIIBLUE
HAWAIIBLUE

I hate to see this kind of stuff happen to our brothers and sisters in blue. As I don’t know their department policies and procedures, I can say that evidence is something you shouldn’t mess with. I hope it works out for them and get their jobs back. That’s my opinion. If you disagree, that’s yours and I respect that. After all this site is called “Blue Lives Matter” it’s not called “I hate police because I couldn’t get in” or “I got a ticket once before so I will troll on here as I see fit”

Pacho
Pacho

Many options: Keep the drugs for personal use, sell, give to somebody us, planted like avidence to others, but destroy ? NEVER ! I some cops are crooked and use drugs and some time their are catch and fired also..

Sb127107
Sb127107

Not hardly (mercy), we are seeing all too often that equals don’t mean equals these days. I’d like to know also how many other officers have been terminated for the same policy violations. If the answer is almost no one along the same circumstances, then we are looking at a withch hunt over and using policy violations. Departments and Chiefs are very selective in who gets disciplined these days and how they choose depending on who the violators are. If these are good officers which they probly are according to the chief, use a discipline and training measure to correct the action.

gvinny67
gvinny67

Victimless crimes, personal possession of a small amount of narcotics and the cop was nice and let them go with a warning more than likely.

Thought cops had a smidgen of leeway about such things?

Guess those other 7 coppers best behave now, sounds like the Chief is more interested in body counts so his county makes that moolah!

Kevcali
Kevcali

This doesn't make sense. They are getting accolades from their chief for bigger busts but getting their buts chopped for small stuff. Maybe they were getting the info on the bigger fish from the smaller throw-backs! I'd rather see the courts tied up with big cases of big-time dlrs than with dime-bag kids