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News Clips 09/06/2013
UNF: Police chief resignation 'unrelated' to handling of drunken driving cases
Source: First Coast News-WTLV-TV-Ch.12, 09/06/13
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The University of North Florida police chief and assistant chief are out of a job, a day after First Coast News started asking questions about how drunken driving cases are handled on the campus.
FCN asked UNF students what they thought would happen if they were pulled over on campus for drunk driving.
"That should be unacceptable," one student said.
"Maybe be punished more harshly because it's on campus," said another.
According to a police report from August 20th, that's not the case. An 18-year-old UNF soccer player was pulled over at 3 a.m.
The University Police Officer noted on the report he had glassy eyes, he failed several field sobriety tests, and had slurred speech.
But instead of arresting him for driving while intoxicated, the officer gave him what's known as a .02 violation.
"We asked the officer, and he said based on his discretion from those tests that he did not believe he was DUI and he went with the lower discretion of .02," said
The state legislature passed the .02 violation to discourage under 21 drivers from having any alcohol in their system.
But when the student blew in to a breathalyzer, it read five times the legal limit for an under 21 driver and above the limit for someone who is of age to drink.
"Once we go that route and have him blow, we cannot go back to DUI," said Lt. Mike Gwynes.
So the student was sent to the student conduct board, and that should be the end of it.
But the day after FCN sent an email to the University Police Chief requesting an interview about the incident and he agreed to meet with us at 4 p.m., we were told he had resigned effective immediately, and the Assistant Police Chief's position was eliminated.
Despite the timing, a university spokesperson said one has nothing to do with the other.
"Completely unrelated," said UNF spokesperson Sharon Ashton.
Ashton would not comment on the .02 violation, saying it was up to UPD to decide how they handle drunk driving cases on campus, but the students might already know.
"I actually think the university police are a little more lenient, and they understand that you're young and make mistakes, and if you get pulled over on campus, you have a better chance of not going to jail," said another student.