I-Team: Officers often resign to avoid termination

Resignation could prevent internal investigation

It happens often when a police officer faces serious allegations -- the department allows them to resign in lieu of termination.

Largo Police Officer Shane Voutsinas resigned the day before he was set to be interviewed by investigators.

In 2012, he was accused of having sexual contact in his squad car while on duty. Because he resigned, Voutsinas was never interviewed about the allegations. The Largo Police Department said the information about the allegations was provided to FDLE, but Voutsinas kept his police officer certification.

He was previously suspended for allegedly lying about where he was during a day he called in sick. He was also giving a reprimand for not properly reporting details about an altercation with a suspect.

Many of the officers involved in the ongoing scandals at the Lakeland Police Department resigned before they could be terminated.

Officer Dan Jonas, Captain John Thomason, Officer George Vidal, Sgt. Felicia Wilson, Sgt. Tony Lewis, Officer Steve Sherman, Det. Rick Gries, and Lt. Al Wilson all resigned amidst a scandal involving sexual misconduct allegations with crime analyst Sue Eberle. The scandal later grew to encompass several other allegations of inappropriate or unethical behavior.

> Click here for in-depth coverage of the Lakeland PD Scandal

Tampa Police Officers Donna Noblitt, David Rochelle, and Vince Bush all resigned in the face of allegations they left work early on the majority of their work days. Tampa officer Matthew Dolitsky was accused by his own department of pulling a gun on his fellow officers during an internal investigation. He, too, resigned before he could be fired.

While resigning can allow an officer to avoid the stigma of being fired, under Florida Law, the law enforcement agency must complete its internal investigation, even if the officer resigns. However, it can be much more difficult to compel an officer to comply with the investigation.

When Officer Tony Lewis of the Lakeland Police Department was accused of inappropriate contact with Sue Eberle, Office of Professional Standards investigators said they couldn't corroborate the allegations because they couldn't interview Lewis or examine his personal cell phone due to his resignation.

Monday on ABC Action News at 11pm, the I-Team is looking into officers who were fired or resigned while under investigation. We're finding some still earn hundreds of thousands of dollars in pension dollars, even after being found guilty of crimes as serious as sex offenses against children.

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