There always seems to be a lot talk among the average Joe and Jane out there about government employees and the amount of work they do.
For the most part I pay little attention to any references about local government agencies since I know any number of people who work in local government jobs and to my knowledge they are all a hard-working bunch of people.
When it comes to state and federal level people that might well be a different story, although I do know a few of those folks and they seem to me to be dedicated and possess a fairly strong work ethic.
I have seen the reports on television during “sweeps” week when local news programs attempt to present sensational stories in order to increase the amount of viewers that tune in each day. Somehow they managed to catch a number of city and county workers either sleeping, loafing, or running personal errands on government time.
But I suspect it is more the exception than the rule.
That’s what I tried to remember when I saw the following story.
Six deputies at the Pinellas County, Florida sheriff’s department were found to have been “idling and loafing” while apparently on duty. Four of them were fired and two were suspended for “up to two days.” Pinellas County is home to St. Petersburg and Clearwater.
According to media reports, Pinellas County Sheriff Bob Guelteri found the men were, over a period of six months, spending much of their time on the job doing nothing.
“We believe our findings are a snapshot of what has been going on for a longer period of time,” he told the local news. “This is a behavior that will not be tolerated, and they are being held accountable.”
According to the news report the incidents involved deputies all in their 40s and all of whom were seasoned veterans. Three of those disciplined had been on the job for more than 20 years.
One of the three fired was accused of “loafing” for a total of 285 hours in 172 separate incidents; another for being idle for 251 hours during 180 times; and a third for not working 314 hours in 212 separate incidents. The fourth deputy fired was a sergeant who failed to properly supervise the fired deputies and also being “idle” while on duty.
Reports show that the officers involved apparently hid their cars from supervisors and did not provide routine police patrols, although it was reported they did respond to calls if they were dispatched. Some even disconnected the GPS units in their cars to avoid detection of their cars not moving.
Responding to the charges leveled and the action taken by the sheriff, the fired-sergeant said it was all part of an “election-year witch hunt,” accusing the sheriff of retaliation against the deputies who were reportedly supporting another candidate in the up-coming election.
The sergeant even tried to justify the time spent “loafing” by telling a reporter, “Part of being a good deputy on patrol is watching and observing.”
Oh, come on.
Watching and observing for 285 hours over a six-month period is a little much, don’t you think? That is more than seven weeks of sitting around doing nothing.
Granted, a law enforcement officer on patrol should be trusted to spend his time and the county’s money wisely. After all they are entrusted by the citizens with serving and protecting and sometimes that means sitting and watching.
But seven weeks of sitting around, doing nothing and hiding your patrol car with a disconnected GPS comes under the heading of taking advantage of a good thing.
Sounds like a good job if you can get it. And apparently these guys did. But
they lost it by abusing the freedom they were granted by the very man who trusted them to do their job.
In my heart I really feel for these guys. Maybe not for the reasons you might suspect, whatever they may be.
See, I spent the first three years of my life living with my parents and older brother in Daytona, Florida. My father ran what was then called a service station (where they sold gasoline and worked on cars) on the main drag leading out to Daytona Beach.
He spoke often of the time we spent there. And down through the years our family would visit Daytona Beach for one week each summer. There Daddy and Mother would renew old acquaintances and visit long-time friends.
Most people thought living in Florida so near the beach would be a dream job. Daddy would differ with that thought.
He always told us the worst part about living and working in a place like Daytona was that practically everyone with whom he dealt was on vacation. And there he was working everyday and not being able to enjoy the beach and the ocean.
So, after awhile he gave it up and moved back to Georgia.
That could have been the attitude of those deputies. The trouble was they didn’t take the initiative to move away. And therein lies the problem.
Kerlin’s roots go back generations in southwestern Fayette County. He’s a regular columnist for this newspaper.