Clearwater, Florida -- Was it a case of favoritism for one of their own? Three Clearwater police officers face suspension after an incident involving what appears to have been a drunken colleague getting a special treatment.
Internal Affairs investigators found a fellow officer was allowed to go home without so much as a field sobriety test even though he appeared to be drunk.
Clearwater's police chief admits it was handled poorly.
"There were some mistakes that were made and there were some poor decisions that were made during this," said Chief Tony Holloway.
In January, one of the department's officers was off duty at the Brown Boxer Pub & Grille on Clearwater Beach. Surveillance cameras captured images of what investigators say is Officer Nicholas Capogna having several drinks ad then stumbling to the parking lot where he hops in his car and drives off.
The department received a handful of calls from concerned witnesses, including one who told dispatchers, "I just witnessed a man walk out of a bar and stumble to his newer Camaro."
Officers caught up with the driver at the corner of Hercules and Marilyn Avenue. Two police sergeants immediately recognized Capogna, and called in a third officer. They told him to move Capogna's car off the road, and then one of the sergeants drove Capogna back to his home.
Neither Sgt. David Young nor Sgt. Sean Allaster conducted a field sobriety test on their colleague, even though they say Capogna reeked from alcohol.
Capogna, who admitted to having a half-dozen drinks, apologized for his conduct and was given a five-day suspension. The two sergeants will each get one day without pay.
There was mixed reaction from people near the bar, when asked about it.
"You're to be held to a higher standard, so a day's suspension for that illicit behavior is certainly not sufficient," aid Lania Bucetovic.
But Tracy Romano, who works not far from the bar, says she is sympathetic.
"I might have done the same thing if I was a police officer and it was my buddy and I know how hard they work," she said.
"I would probably be arrested," said Mehi Metin.
Police Chief Tony Holloway says that perception of a double standard is what's most troubling, and so he is changing department policy.
From now on it will not be left to an officer's discretion. Anyone suspected of driving drunk can bet "that they will have a field sobriety test done on them -- cop or not," said Holloway.
Capogna also loses his take-home cruiser privileges for a full year.
Sometimes policy changes can take weeks or even months to put in place, but Chief Holloway says everyone, including the police union took one look at this case and was on board.
Expect the new policy to be implemented in about a week.