CLEARWATER, Florida--The 10 News Investigators have learned Pinellas County Deputy Paul Martin is still on the force despite several Internal Affairs investigations that bring the deputy's professionalism and ability to do his job into question.
Martin is a decorated veteran deputy, but since 2009, Internal Affairs investigators have looked into charges that Martin was involved in domestic violence, false imprisonment, associating with a drug user, and lying to his superiors.
Yet, Deputy Martin still has his badge and gun, and he's still on the street.
A former Pinellas deputy who asked not to be identified is among several deputies fired or forced to resign in the past several months who tell us they were guilty of much less egregious violations than Martin.
"Behavior like that can't be accepted, not in law enforcement," said one former deputy. "It's not explainable at this point. That's one of the fundamental issues that's wrong currently with the sheriff's office and its policies and procedures."
The most recent allegation involved an altercation between Martin and his ex-wife. She can be heard on 911 tapes screaming that Deputy Martin is hurting her, according to the Internal Affairs investigation obtained by the 10 News Investigators. Martin allegedly learned her car had been in the garage of a male suitor. He conducted an illegal license and registration check to see if the vehicle was hers, then logged out of his assigned area and proceeded with lights and sirens to his home.
Sheriff Bob Gualtieri admits that Martin was wrong to leave his post and confront his wife. "Well, obviously Paul Martin was involved in a very heated domestic divorce relationship situation, no question about that, and his conduct was inappropriate."
And there's more. According to the Internal Affairs report, Martin handcuffed his wife, roughed her up, lied to officers who responded to the scene about handcuffing her or being involved in a physical confrontation, and lied that his superiors had told his ex-wife she would be trespassing if she went to the house again. Charges were referred to the State Attorney's Office and Deputy Martin entered a deferred prosecution program.
Then there's the Internal Affairs investigation into whether Martin developed a personal relationship with a person who illegally obtained prescription meds. "As far as Paul Martin and his relationship with this woman -- it was an inappropriate relationship. As a deputy sheriff, and having a relationship with the person who had a drug problem, he was held accountable for that," said Sheriff Gualtieri.
During that investigation there was testimony from the drug user and her dealer that Deputy Martin helped her buy drugs by driving her to meet dealers, and watched her do the drugs he helped her buy. He also allegedly gave her between $10,000 to $15,000 during their relationship for drugs, had sex in uniform and in his county patrol car, and tipped her off to stings going on near her house.
Martin maintains the allegations are not true, and despite the sworn testimony, the Internal Affairs could not substantiate those allegations. However, Martin did receive more than a two week unpaid suspension for associating with a known drug user and violating the law enforcement code of ethics.
Then there are the problems Martin had with lying to his superiors. In one instance, he reportedly said he was at the State Attorney's Office when his car was in his driveway. He also allegedly threatened to kill a man who was dating his ex-wife, failed to act professional with a corporal, and got into a shouting match with two sergeants after missing an appointment with a psychologist to determine his fitness for duty -- which he was determined not to be.
But he's still on the force with a badge and a gun.
One of the deputies that talked with 10 News says he's shocked Martin is still on the force. "I do not know. I don't think that's an easy question for me to answer at my level. I think, at this point, he's obviously protected in some way by the administration."
Despite the fact there is seemingly a mountain of sustained allegations against Martin, Gualtieri points out the punishment was appropriate in the sheriff's mind and he feels Martin is fit to be on the force.
Gualtieri also maintains it is important to note he was not sheriff at the time the punishment was handed out and had nothing to do with it. "As I have explained many times, in our system and process, the chief deputy doesn't make decisions about discipline," he said.
But one unidentified deputy disagrees. "Well, I know for a fact that when he was chief deputy he ran everything day-to-day. There wasn't much of anything that went on that he wasn't part of."
Regardless of who made the decision to keep Martin on the street, many of his colleagues believe it's a major mistake.