Team appointed to review Tampa DUI cases - WFLA News Channel 8

Team appointed to review Tampa DUI cases

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Chief Jane Castor Chief Jane Castor
TAMPA, FL (WFLA) -

They swear to protect and serve you but now the actions of at least two Tampa police officers are under the microscope.Tampa Police Chief Jane Castor announced Tuesday the department will create a new DUI review team to evaluate some past DUI cases.

"The bottom line is - we need to restore confidence in the DUI unit and in the Tampa Police Department as a whole," Chief Castor said.

The team of six people, three outside experts and three internal officers with DUI experience, will start by researching the open cases of Sgt. Ray Fernandez and Officer Tim McGinnis.

Those are the two officers involved in the DUI arrest controversy of attorney Phil Campbell. His own attorney claims Campbell was set-up during a high-profile defamation trial of two Tampa Bay shock jocks.

An investigation revealed a tipster from an opposing law firm texted Sgt. Fernandez as a paralegal bought Campbell drinks at a Tampa steakhouse and that the Fernandez was waiting outside the restaurant to stop Campbell. Officer McGinnis made the arrest.

"There's been zilch disciplinary action taken against any of the officers involved," said John Fitzgibbons, who is Campbell's attorney.

Both officers have been reassigned out of DUI duty.

Related story: 07/30/2013 Tampa cop involved in MJ Schnitt's DUI case reassigned

But Fitzgibbons says the chief should have taken disciplinary action by now, especially since she admits she was lied to. Chief Castor says, after the incident Sgt. Fernandez told her there were only a few messages back and forth between him and his tipster that night...when phone records show it was 92 texts altogether.

"It's just mind-boggling to me that a supervisory sergeant can speak directly to the chief of police and not tell the truth," Fitzgibbons said. "If anybody in any organization talked directly to their CEO and lied to their CEO - they would be clearing their office out that afternoon."

But the chief says the F.B.I. is currently doing its own investigation into the officer's actions that night and dismissing him before an investigation is complete would be premature.

"He deserves due process just like everyone else," Castor said.

In the meantime, the DUI review team will start combing through at least 34 cases: Four that are currently open by Sgt. Ray Fernandez and 30 of Officer McGinnis.

Fitzgibbons believes the formation of a DUI review team is only a "baby-step" and there needs to be an independent, thorough investigation into the unit. He wants to know if there are quotas officers must meet and why supervisors don't have dashboard cameras.

"I don't know what's happened over the years. I don't know what the practices have been," Fitzgibbons said. "But I know that all honest and ethical police officers as well as lawyers would welcome such an inquiry."

Follow Josh Green on Twitter @wflaJoshG

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