If we are all being honest, what would the headlines look like without Florida always having something crazy happening? The headlines would be boring but Ohio would still carry some of the crazy headlines. If there is a list of places that a police officer shouldn’t show up drunk, a Mothers Against Drunk Driving conference would be near the top. Why would this officer be at this conference in the first place?
The officer’s name is Michael Szeliga and he was receiving an award for making over 100 DUI arrests in Pinellas County. Pinellas County is the most densely populated county in Florida and its big cities include Clearwater and St. Petersburg. Szeliga was to be awarded on the west coast of Florida in Fort Lauderdale. Before he departed there are reports obtained by the Tampa news cameras that show the officer putting a bottle of Jameson Irish Whiskey in the patrol car before he and 2 other officers made the trip to the conference.
Szeliga was also attending the conference to take part in combating drunk driving. Since he was being moved from the DUI unit, Szeliga left early and decided to have a few drinks around the pool. Then Szeliga got ready to attend the conference and was apparently “staggeringly” drunk. A police chief from another department advised that he not go to the conference as he was already too drunk. The drunk officer responded with disrespectful comments that led the chief to tell one of the officer’s superiors.
To add to this the officer was on duty the entire time. He was found wandering the hotel halls in nothing but underwear. Szeliga said he just had a few drinks but from what witnesses say, they had to be giant drinks.
DUI attorneys who defend drivers from all places Szeliga has worked must be jumping for joy. If they can prove that the officer was under the influence or might have been under the influence during an arrest, the cases could be thrown out. This might be difficult to prove but those who have cases coming up might have been treated unfairly as the officer could have been inebriated.
Many of you reading this would think that this officer was suspended for a solid amount of time. Others might think that showing up drunk while on duty is a termination in the process. Neither of these would be correct though as Szeliga only received a one day suspension and was ordered to write a letter of apology to the chief that he made disrespectful comments to. This all took place in July and it took 4 months to come up with the discipline of only 1 day. The case file pertaining to this incident was over 250 pages and all that could happen is a small slap on the wrist. Many employees around the country would fear losing their job if they showed up drunk and then disrespected a superior in the process. Everyone makes mistakes and punishments should fit the crime, but in this instance it didn’t. What do you think the punishment should have been?