PINELLAS COUNTY, Fla. – A Pinellas County Sheriff’s Office deputy has been terminated after an investigation showed he sexually harassed a new employee of the sheriff’s office.
On Monday, January 23, 2023, Sheriff Bob Gualtieri terminated the employment of Deputy Timothy Lafave for violating the Pinellas County Sheriff’s Office (PCSO) policy prohibiting sexual harassment and discrimination. Deputy Lafave was assigned to the Judicial Operations Bureau (JOB), Detention Court Squad.
The PCSO Administrative Investigation Division investigation revealed that over a two-week period during April 2022, Deputy Lafave was in the JOB Detention Control room while a young, new female agency member was being trained for her job as a Criminal Justice Specialist.
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During the two-week period, the new female member noticed Deputy Lafave inappropriately staring at her. The female told investigators that Deputy Lafave “liked to be closer” to her and appeared to have “a fond(ness) for staring” at her.
Other agency members noticed Deputy Lafave staring at the female member, and in conversations with them the young female described Deputy Lafave as “weird” and “creepy.” Neither the female nor anyone else reported Deputy LaFave’s misconduct to supervisors at the time this occurred.
In the Fall of 2022, Deputy Lafave organized and prepaid for hockey tickets for himself and a group of agency members. This event was not an agency-sanctioned event. Deputy Lafave was requested by another agency member to purchase a ticket for the female member to attend.
On October 18, 2022, Deputy Lafave’s duties included escorting inmates from the jail to the courthouse. After Deputy Lafave completed escorting the inmates, he entered the x-ray/scanning area of the Pinellas County Justice Center (PCJC) entrance while the female agency member was conducting safety screenings.
Deputy Lafave approached her and inappropriately placed his left arm around her back and hugged her from the side. Deputy Lafave then asked the female member about the hockey tickets and asked if she still planned to attend. After their conversation, Deputy Lafave left the area. Again, Deputy Lafave’s inappropriate touching was not reported to any supervisor.
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Investigators say on the following day, October 19, 2022, the female member was again assigned to the PCJC x-ray/scanning area. Deputy Lafave again approached the female member from behind and placed both of his hands on the member’s shoulders and began to massage her shoulders.
Deputy Lafave’s actions were unsolicited and unwanted by the female member. Deputy Lafave then transitioned to the member’s left side while keeping his right hand on her shoulder, then he leaned in and hugged her. While Deputy Lafave was attempting to hug the female member, she made an obvious effort to lean away from him during the contact.
After the hug, Deputy Lafave kept his right hand on her upper body and began to rub her back. During this interaction, the female agency member testified that Deputy Lafave referred to her as “babe,” as he began discussing payment for the hockey ticket. Deputy Lafave’s actions were observed by a deputy who reported Deputy Lafave’s inappropriate conduct to supervisors, and PCSO commenced an internal investigation.
Deputy Lafave’s actions toward the female agency member were wrong and in violation of PCSO policy. Deputy Lafave’s misconduct made the female agency member feel “uncomfortable” and “embarrassed.”
The April 2022 staring incidents were not captured on video. However, the October 2022 touching incidents were captured on courthouse surveillance video.
Deputy Lafave admitted during his administrative interview to giving the female member unsolicited hugs on both days, along with massaging her shoulders and rubbing her back. Deputy Lafave attempted to explain his inappropriate touching of the young female as acting from a “fatherly standpoint.”
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Deputy Lafave was questioned during the Administrative Review Board about why he was staring at the female member during her training. Deputy Lafave stated, “she was new, I’m just trying to get a feel for her as a person, as a coworker” and he stated he was trying to make her “feel welcome.”
Deputy Lafave’s attempted justifications during the investigative interviews were lies in an effort to mitigate his misconduct. Deputy Lafave admitted during the final Administrative Review Board hearing that it was not appropriate or professional to physically touch a member in the manner that he did, and he admitted to violating agency policy.
As a result of the investigation, the Administrative Review Board determined Deputy Lafave committed these policy violations, and Sheriff Gualtieri terminated Deputy Lafave effective Monday, January 23, 2023.