PINELLAS PARK, Fla. -- The Pinellas Park Police Department said it has reprimanded officers who took home relief supplies intended for victims of Hurricane Michael.
Lt. Scott Golczewski and Sgt. Michael Griffiths retired before an internal affairs investigation concluded, but the department said seven other members of the agency have since received documented "verbal counseling" for their "poor judgment" in bringing back a "significant quantity" of ready-to-eat meals from a Bay County preparation and distribution facility operated by a nonprofit relief organization.
The officers' primary mission was supposed to be providing security at the location.
In total, two groups of 12 officers were sent to the site. The first group deployed on Oct. 12, and the second went on Oct. 19. The last officers returned home on Oct. 25.
The investigation found organizers of the nonprofit relief operation told officers they would be closing down operations, and any leftover food would need to be removed or disposed of; so the nonprofit gave the officers permission to take leftovers.
Police supervisors oversaw the removal of 26 boxes of ready-to-eat meals, six boxes of baby wipes, two rope bundles, one box of tarps and a bag of dried fruit, which all came back to Pinellas Park.
When he found out what happened, Pinellas Park Police Chief Michael Haworth ordered the items be collected and returned to Bay County.
"Despite permission to do so, the authorization and removal of disaster relief supplies from a storm-damaged area was a poor judgment call made by our supervisory team members," Chief Haworth wrote in an emailed statement. "It is unfortunate that the hard work and aide our agency members provided to Bay County residents on behalf of our city and residents is clouded by this poor decision."
Seven more boxes of ready-to-eat meals and another box of tarps appear to have initially been placed into police cruisers for distribution to people in need -- but never got handed out. Investigators believe those items were inadvertently brought back after the mission ended. Those items were also returned to Bay County, along with the items that were taken home on purpose.
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