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Sheriff: Hernando deputy resigns after reporting false traffic stops, turning off dash cam

Investigators say Deputy Joseph McClellan allowed a citizen who was doing a ride-along to approach a speeding driver alone.
Credit: Hernando County Sheriff's Office
Hernando County Sheriff's Office patrol car

HERNANDO COUNTY, Fla. — A Hernando County deputy has resigned after multiple job performance issues were uncovered during an internal affairs investigation.

The sheriff's office says it launched the investigation into Deputy Joseph McClellan in March after a detective reported seeing him call in a false traffic stop.

The detective reportedly heard McClellan call in a traffic stop on the radio just before 5 a.m. on March 10. Because he was in the area, he went to back McClellan up only to find the deputy parked on the side of the road with his lights out, according to the sheriff's office. A traffic stop was never conducted.

After launching the investigation, the sheriff's office says it discovered that several of McClellan's other reported traffic stops were of concern. 

According to investigators, McClellan said he initiated seven traffic stops that were found not to exist. The deputy also reportedly had numerous inconsistencies in his dashcam usage, including turning it off when his car was in emergency mode with its lights and siren on.

In one instance, investigators say McClellan allowed a citizen doing a ride-along to approach a speeding driver. The deputy is accused of directing the citizen to approach the vehicle alone to return the driver's license, registration and insurance information and to provide a verbal warning. 

A search of McClellan's car also revealed several witness statement forms from two different cases that had not been completed nor scanned into the appropriate files, the sheriff's office reports.

McClellan declined to be interviewed during the internal affairs investigation and later submitted a letter of resignation.

"It is extremely disappointing any time a law enforcement officer tarnishes the badge or fails to perform to the highest standards. I personally swear in every new employee, both sworn and civilian. While swearing in deputies, they must raise their right hand and swear they will never betray the badge, oath, integrity, character, or the public trust and they must hold themselves and others accountable for their actions," Sheriff Al Nienhuis said in a statement. 

"Evidence revealed in this internal investigation proves Deputy Joseph McClellan failed to uphold this oath, bringing discredit to himself and to the agency as a whole," he continued.

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