Sunday, December 16, 2007

Fort Lauderdale Officer Fired for Playing Bagpipes on Taxpayer's Dime

Those who have suggested that Rick overreacted to Bob Norman's insinuations do not understand the seriousness of the predicament in which he finds himself. The fact that this predicament is entirely of his own making, that he could have avoided it by showing more prevision, or even defused it by his silence, does not make his present circumstances more tenable. What he should have done is now a moot question. What matters now is what he should do to survive its inevitable effects. Early retirement, if possible, or resignation, if unavoidable, though it may cost him a few bucks, is his best option. It is certainly preferable to the alternative, which could end up costing him his pension and thousands in restitution: not to mention the public scandal he would be at the center of, which for such a lover of anonymity as Rick might be worse than any other punishment (though there might be others more dire as well).

There is a precedent that should be all the admonishment that Rick needs to transition into an early retirement, where he would be able to blog to his heart's content without endangering his own well-being or the safety of those whom he has sworn to protect. I am sure that Rick considers the diffusion of his eclectic opinions to be a public service, but until blogging becomes a job classification at the department and he is appointed head of its blogging division, it is in Rick's interest to perform his duties in accordance with the rules, regulations (and, yes, laws) which currently govern the department. One thing is certain: Rick must decide between his job and his hobby. There can be no "Rick the Cop" blog. He was right about that from the beginning.

Here is the cautionary tale of what happened to a police officer who tried to combine his job with his "bliss." Hopefully, he still has the bagpipes, but would he want to play them anymore?

Fort Lauderdale officer who practiced bagpipes on duty resigns to avoid firing

By Brittany Wallman
South Florida Sun-Sentinel
Posted June 1 2007

FORT LAUDERDALE · A police officer with a history of disciplinary cases, including for practicing the bagpipes when he should have been on patrol, has resigned rather than be fired.

Officer Keith J. Kowalski quit after 23 years on the force, after Chief Bruce Roberts told him in writing he was suspended without pay and then would be dismissed for not doing his job, according to police investigative records. He was suspended April 27 and his dismissal would have been effective May 25.


Police spokesman Sgt. Frank Sousa said Kowalski's May 8 resignation was accepted "in bad standing," and the status was reported to the Florida Department of Law Enforcement, in case Kowalski applies for police work elsewhere.

Kowalski, 49, has repeatedly been disciplined for neglecting his duties and was issued a final warning by Roberts five years ago, according to records.

Still, he kept his job despite a scathing disciplinary report in 2005, when he was suspended 16 days for not helping an elderly woman who had been hit by two vehicles and lay dying on the roadway.

"His decision-making is questionable and poses a danger to himself as well as other officers and the public he serves," police Maj. Mary Negrey wrote in a memo at the time.

Kowalski could not be reached for comment. Union officials said they had no comment because Kowalski resigned.

In 2001, Kowalski was suspended three days after the South Florida Sun-Sentinel reported he repeatedly played the bagpipes at a fire station and lifted weights there when he was supposed to be working.

In another case, in 2002, he was close enough to a double-shooting to hear the gunshots, officials said, but didn't respond to the scene. Instead, he went to talk to a union representative about another discipline case in which he was accused of not responding to a dispatch call. He was suspended 15 days and issued a final warning.

"Your actions displayed a total disregard for the safety of the residents of our community and the members of this department," Roberts wrote in a letter to Kowalski at the time.

In 2003, a TV news cameraman videotaped him kneeing a shackled, handcuffed suspect in the side. Some in the public called for his firing, but he was exonerated after a lengthy investigation.
In the latest incidents that culminated in his recommended dismissal, according to the investigative file, Kowalski didn't respond to two silent distress alarms on different dates in fall 2006, both times while he was on duty and not involved with another call. Kowalski was at home when one of the alarm calls came in, and he then drove past the location without stopping, police officials said.

Kowalski told his superiors he didn't hear either broadcast, an explanation they found unacceptable.

Investigators also found that Kowalski, assigned to patrol the beach area, spent a lot of time at home, according to police records.

Investigators used vehicle locator devices to examine Kowalski's habits on 49 workdays in 2006 and found he went home 54 times in that period for an average of 35 minutes, one time for an hour and a half.

He told investigators he went home to eat, but he also took daily meal breaks at the police station, according to a memo from Internal Affairs Capt. Rick Maglione.

He was also found to have been untruthful in his sworn testimony about his visits home, according to Internal Affairs documents. And in a subsequent investigation in April, Kowalski was found to have neglected his duties when he didn't respond to a pedestrian hit by a vehicle two blocks away from his location. Kowalski said he was using the bathroom.

"Your conduct demonstrated a flagrant disregard for department rules and regulations, showed a pattern of poor judgment and violated the basic trust placed in you as a police officer," Roberts wrote in the termination letter.

1 comment:

Vana said...

What is a guy with a Polish sounding last name doing playing bagpipes? lol I would think he would have been of Scottish descent, finally he got his just punishment, we don't need a cop like that in the streets, seems many are corrupted, I guess that's what's coming Rick's way, he'll surely be losing a lot of money.