WILLOUGHBY, Ohio - A 23-year veteran of this suburban police department is under internal investigation for treating an off-duty officer with kid gloves after he had been drinking and driving.
The veteran officer remains unidentified, but he is seen on camera telling off-duty Ashtabula Patrolman Wayne Howell to arrange for a ride home. The video was obtained from a private investigator in an unrelated case.
The investigating officer never stuck around long enough to know if Howell's ride ever arrived.
It didn't. Howell got back inside his truck and drove away.
About 45 minutes later, he is seen driving on I-90 and exiting at State Route 44 in Painesville. It's at that location where the Ohio State Highway Patrol pulled him over for reckless driving.
Lt. Brant Zemelka, commander in charge of the OSHP Chardon post, said his officer smelled alcohol on Howell's breath and immediately did a field sobriety test. Howell flunked the exam and he was arrested on a charge of OVI.
He was taken to Lake County Jail where he was given a blood-alcohol test. Howell's blood-alcohol level was .159, or nearly twice the .08 legal limit.
The big failure here was not insuring the public safety and guaranteeing that the individual would not get back on the road," said Chief Beckwith. "I'm thankful no one was hurt. We were lucky."
Beckwith says he has yet to decide on what type of disciplinary action to take against the veteran officer. But he is still allowed to work as a patrolman with no cut in pay.
Howell, on the other hand, has been suspended as a police officer and demoted to dispatcher, with a 20 per cent reduction in pay.
Chief Beckwith says his officers occasionally give motorists a break, even individuals they don't know. He says the officers use their judgment.
"In this case, it wasn't such a good idea," he said.
Lt. Zemelka says don't look to him to get any breaks for driving drunk.
"We stop you and we issue you a citation for OVI," he said.