Attorney calls for investigation into TPD DUI unit - FOX 13 News

Attorney calls for investigation into Tampa Police Department DUI unit

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TAMPA (FOX 13) -

An attorney wants a special investigation of the Tampa Police Department's DUI squad after a high-profile arrest in January.

A special prosecutor threw out Phil Campbell's DUI after the investigation revealed Campbell was set up by rival attorneys, who had the help of the sergeant in charge of the DUI squad.

Campbell's attorney John Fitzgibbons says the whole thing is despicable, and wonders how many other unfounded DUI arrests there may be.

"The conduct of the police involved and the conduct of Adams and Diaco firm is disgusting and it is an insult to every honest and ethical police officer and lawyer," Fitzgibbons said.

Fitzgibbons wrote a nine-page letter to TPD Chief Jane Castor and Tampa Mayor Bob Buckhorn calling for an independent investigation into the DUI squad.

"It's clear TPD is incapable or unwilling to investigate the unit itself," he said.

LINK: Fitzgibbons' letter to TPD and Mayor Bob Buckhorn

Fitzgibbons outlined his concerns at a press conference Thursday afternoon. He said he wants to know if there is a quota system where TPD officers have to make a certain number of DUI arrests. He wondered about the rules regarding police officers' friendships with private citizens, and how those play into the officers' jobs.

"If police are in cahoots with private citizens to target other private citizens, the system just doesn't work," he said.

Chief Castor also held a press conference Thursday to respond to Fitzgibbons' letter. She generally defended the DUI unit, but said it was "clear there needs to be more supervision and oversight."

But she was critical of Sgt. Ray Fernandez, the DUI unit supervisor who staked out Phil Campbell, and information that Fernandez exchanged dozens of text messages with Campbell's rival attorney.

She said she was initially told there were "a few" text messages exchanged.

"To say that I was disappointed that the number [of texts] was 92 is an understatement," Castor said.

Castor said Fernandez used bad judgment and should have called in another officer.

She said there were several valid points in Fitzgibbons' letter, but said TPD is cooperating with an FBI investigation, and an independent investigation into the DUI unit is unnecessary.

But Fitzgibbons called that a "delay tactic" and said in the meantime, the scandal is "festering."

"If this can happen to someone like Phil Campbell, it can happen to anybody," Fitzgibbons said. "Somebody going through a divorce, your soon-to-be ex-spouse could have a friend on the police department to set you up and impact child custody issues. You could be in a business dispute with somebody and your opponent has a friend on the Tampa Police Department to set you up with an arrest. It never ends."

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