By Marilyn Miller
Posted Jun 24, 2011
The spotlight is on the Orleans Police Department for what appears to have been a drunk driving incident on March 6 involving Officer Travis Tebbetts.
Officer Travis Tebbetts
Tebbetts was stopped by a state police trooper on Route 6 after allegedly driving erratically and at speeds up to 80 miles an hour, but was never charged.
The officer was disciplined for the incident, following an internal investigation into whether he violated department rules with conduct unbecoming an officer. A hearing was held April 18.
Orleans Police Chief Jeffrey Roy spoke with The Cape Codder at his office yesterday morning. He said that when the Orleans police were notified by the state police that Tebbetts had been detained, a decision had already been made not to arrest him and “they were not asking us ‘Should we arrest him?’”
Roy explained, “the officer uses discretion on whether to arrest him or not, and they contacted us to provide him with a ride home, which we did.”
Roy said he is prohibited by labor laws from making public the punishment he handed down to Tebbetts following the April 18 hearing.
“In this case I had to go with what I had for facts, and the facts were that he had been drinking and driving erratically, and that’s what he was disciplined for. I didn’t have any conclusive evidence that he was under the influence, no conclusive evidence of blood alcohol testing. If I had that, it probably would have been a very different discipline, but I disciplined him to the severest extent that I can to the highest level of my authority,” Roy said.
After finding Tebbetts on the grassy area of the approach to the start of Suicide Alley on Route 6, Trooper Steven Culver impounded his car, and then arranged by phone call to Tebbetts’s superior officer, Orleans Deputy Chief Scott MacDonald, for Tebbetts to driven to his home in Brewster. While waiting for his ride, Tebbetts sat in a Dennis police car.
Culver did not arrest Tebbetts for driving under the influence, nor is there any indication that Culver administered a field sobriety test.
Yet the internal investigation of the incident, conducted by Deputy Chief MacDonald, includes statements from an Orleans officer and a Yarmouth police officer stating that Culver told them Tebbetts was intoxicated.
The state police, after learning of this incident through a Cape Cod Times story, opened an investigation into whether Trooper Culver “mishandled this incident,” David Procopio, state police spokesman said Wednesday. Procopio said the investigation started last week.
“We are treating this as a complaint, even though it is not a citizen complaint,” he said.
Procopio added that when the state police investigation is completed, “We will announce whether the allegation that this incident was mishandled is sustained or whether Culver is exonerated.”
There is a misconception that his office did not respond immediately to this incident, Roy said.
“Nothing could be further from the truth,” he said, pointing out that Tebbetts was notified the very next day he would be the focus of an internal investigation.
Roy said the internal investigation started March 7, but was delayed when Tebbetts and MacDonald went on scheduled vacations.
Orleans Deputy Chief MacDonald met with Culver on April 15, more than a month after the incident occurred.
MacDonald stated in the internal report he asked Culver on April 15 “to explain the circumstances that led to Tebbetts’ detainment,” and Culver said, “probable cause had not been established to make an arrest.”
Yet the internal report contains a letter from Orleans Sgt. Matthew Watts, who was in phone contact with Culver, and wrote, “Culver stated that Tebbetts was intoxicated and the vehicle was going to be towed.”
The report also includes a statement from Yarmouth Police Officer Gordon Gibbons, who stated: “Culver told me Officer Tebbetts was extremely intoxicated and admitted to drinking eight beers.”
Another Orleans officer, Lt. Scott Diamond, in a statement included in the internal report, said he was at the Sons of Erin club in West Yarmouth on March 6 and saw Tebbetts “drinking a beer.”
Diamond goes on the say that, “A short time later Officer Tebbetts stood up and said that he was leaving. He appeared sluggish to me, almost lethargic. I followed him to the door where I asked if he was okay to drive. He stated that he was fine and was tired and just wanted to get home.” Diamond stated he noticed later that Tebbetts was no longer at the club.
Gibbons, the Yarmouth police officer, was off duty that night he spotted the vehicle that was later identified as Tebbetts’s crossing double yellow lines on a road in South Yarmouth, and then proceeding to the entrance to Route 6, at one point traveling at a speed of about 80 miles an hour although the posted speed limit is 55 miles.
“There are several reasons why I have committed this incident to writing,” Gibbons said. “First and foremost is the extreme risk to public safety Officer Tebbetts created by operating his vehicle in such a reckless and dangerous manner. Had it not been for Trooper Culver stopping Officer Tebbetts prior to reaching the undivided two-way stretch of Route 6, I am absolutely certain that a serious and likely fatal crash would have occurred. In my 16 years with this department, this was the dangerous display of reckless driving I have ever witnessed.”
Gibbons also said he talked to other local officers who told him that “Tebbetts is a frequent drunk driver” and that he has been extended “professional courtesy on more than multiple occasions for a variety of alcohol-related incidents. Based upon this information, it would appear that this is not a one-time case of poor judgment exercised by all of us at some point in our lives, but rather a troubling and outright dangerous pattern of behavior.” He added, “I hope by bringing this dangerous situation to your attention, we can avoid a tragic accident.”
Roy said the department was notified of Gibbons’s letter on March 8, by which time the department had already started its investigation.
Regarding Gibbons’s statements that other officers have stopped Tebbetts for drunk driving without arresting him, Roy said he talked to Yarmouth Police Chief Frank Frederickson and told him if he has any information to substantiate this claim, he would investigate it.
“But I don’t know of any other incidents that he has been involved in involving drunk driving,” he said. “If there was, we would handle it very seriously.”
Roy said Tebbetts is an “exemplary officer” and that he “made a mistake and I am extremely disappointed with his behavior and he knows it. He used poor judgment and was disciplined. He accepted that. He was held accountable. He said ‘I did it wrong,’ and took his punishment.”
Roy said Tebbetts is on the job and driving. The department has programs open to officers who have drug or drinking problems.
“If they are involved in incidents, it can be part of their disciplinary package,” he said.
Copyright 2011 Wicked Local - Cape Cod. Some rights reserved
Read more: Conduct unbecoming? Orleans Police Officer disciplined, but not charged after OUI traffic stop - - Wicked Local - Cape Cod http://www.wickedlocal.com/capecod/archive/x977389037/Conduct-unbecoming-Orleans-Police-Officer-disciplined-but-not-charged-after-OUI-traffic-stop#ixzz1QZRWarfR
In: Citizen Journalism
Tags: copblock.org, cop block, orleans ma, Officer Travis Tebbetts, OUI, DUI, intoxication, The Cape Codder,
Location: Orleans, Massachusetts, United States (load item map)
Marked as: approved
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