Deputy Involved In “Joy Ride” With Friends Wants Job Back
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FORT LAUDERDALE (CBSMiami) — A Broward Sheriff’s deputy wants his job back after he was fired for driving a marked patrol car through the streets of Fort Lauderdale with the loudspeaker at full blast with inappropriate remarks.
Multiple 911 calls came in just after 2:30 a.m. on a weekend in August 2013 of two men -not in uniform- driving a marked patrol car down Las Olas and Himmarshee districts.
The callers said the loudspeaker was blaring with lewd comments.
Surveillance cameras even captured some of the night’s activities in the cruiser.
According to the Sun Sentinel, a hot dog vendor at the corner of Southeast First Avenue and Second Street was heckled by the men in the cruiser several times.
“Hey, how are your hot dogs? Those hot dogs any good? I want a hot dog,” the vendor stated he heard from the loudspeaker in a police report.
Catcalls to women on the street spoke of women’s private parts according to the vendor’s statement.
“Girls, put your vaginas back in your pants,” the vendor said he heard repeatedly.
Deputy Rodrigo Mello, 33, was the off-duty deputy behind the wheel of the cruiser with two allegedly drunken friends on a joy ride.
Police said Mello produced his identification when pulled over and there was a drunken friend in the front seat and a woman passed out in the backset of the 2007 Dodge Challenger.
Mello was not drunk during the incident, according to records.
Mello was fired for the incident in January of 2014 and hopes to regain his job using an arbitration process.
An arbitrator has not been selected.
Mello has not commented on the incident or his quest to get his job back, but the Broward County Police Benevolent Association, which represents him says he should not have lost his job.
Jeff Marano of the PBA said, “It was a silly thing to do and it was not called for; however, at the end of the day it’s not a career ender. It’s not something he should be terminated for.”
Marano said Mello had never been disciplined before and had received the Medal of Honor from the Sheriff’s office after a subject tried to rob him during a drug investigation.
Marano said Mello’s actions didn’t put anyone in danger. “He was not intoxicated. He was not driving under the influence and hindsight being 20/20 he should’ve grabbed the mic and not let the guy play with it, but oftentimes we do silly things because we want to releive the stress of the job,” he said.
A Sheriff’s Captain who was at the scene the night of the joy ride reportedly did not take “suitable” action and reprimanded. Although there was no clear statement as to what type of action the Captain should have taken.
Records show Gajate said he didn’t smell alcohol on Mello, his eyes weren’t bloodshot, he didn’t slur his words and he was able to stand.
He concluded that Mello was not intoxicated, took his vehicle and sent the deputy home, records show.
In written statements, Mello told Gajate he had a single alcoholic beverage earlier in the evening, records show.
However, Mello’s statement changed on October 30, according to the Sun Sentinel.
He stated he had two or three alcoholic drinks over a course of three to four hours at Rocco’s Tacos on Las Olas Boulevard.
From Rocco’s they went to Vibe, a bar on Las Olas, where they spent an hour, according to records. When it was time to leave, his friends were “extremely intoxicated,” Mello said, so he agreed to drive them home.
During the drive, Mello stated he “flashed his lights once” after his friend said he had never been in a police car. He stated he gave him permission to say something over the P.A. system, but Mello did not recall anything lewd or offensive being said.
Mello has been a deputy for 11 years, but his termination was based on a lack of discretion, conduct unbecoming and having unauthorized passengers in his vehicle.
Watch Maggie Newland’s report, click here.
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