TAMPA, Fla. (WFLA) — A Tampa police officer was suspended Thursday for three days for allegedly failing to document evidence and a violation of a response to resistance policy during an arrest in 2022, according to the Tampa Police Department.
Sgt. Stephen Drabiniak was one of several officers called to MacDinton’s Irish Pub on Howard Avenue on June 11, 2022 to assist security removing “unruly patrons” at closing time, according to police.
Drabiniak and three other officers arrived and saw a group of people assaulting two officers who were already there, police said.
Three people were asked to leave the area, but resisted officers, according to police. The three people were eventually charged with trespassing and resisting.
In March, police received a USB drive in the mail with a 45 second video from June 11, 2022. The video showed Drabiniak with his hands around the neck of one of the patrons for about eight seconds, according to police.
However, Drabiniak only submitted his body-worn camera footage even though he had a copy of the cell phone video showing the incident, according to police. The department said this is a violation of department policies.
Drabiniak was attempting to restrain the patron using what police called a “pain compliance technique,” where the officer applies pressure behind a person’s ear and jawline, however, it was not done correctly, police said.
“The placement of the hands was incorrect,” Chief Lee Bercaw said. “But the actual technique is appropriate.”
The patron in the incident reportedly testified in court that he was not choked, did not have trouble breathing, and he requested no medical attention, police said. He was found not guilty by a jury in August 2022.
“Things like this happen across the nation, but then to see a video so close to home it was very disturbing,” said Carlye Owens, an attorney who represented the patron in the 2022 trial. “But of course, when you see a video like that, as an attorney, it just makes you want to fight even harder for your client.”
“This is an example that if you do provide us something, you know, I’m going to take action immediately and that’s what I did in this case,” Bercaw said.
Drabiniak allegedly said he couldn’t get the video to download, so he gave up, police said.
“He had some technical issues, but he didn’t document it in the report, so that’s a clear policy violation,” Bercaw said.
Owens said she’s glad Drabiniak is being held accountable.
“I’m pleased in particular with this case that there were other people there who were taking action and taking video to make sure what happened to [the patron] wasn’t swept under the rug,” she said.