SARASOTA, FL (WFLA) – The Sarasota police officer at the center of a jailhouse controversy has resigned. Surveillance video, shot on July 18 in the Sarasota County Jail, shows Officer Andrew Halpin tossing peanuts to a handcuffed, homeless inmate, Randy Miller.In the footage, Halpin cheers when Miller, who has his hands handcuffed behind his back, catches the peanuts. He watches Miller eat peanuts off the ground. The officer appears to be taunting the inmate. Sources said the officer even gave Miller dog commands. Halpin had previous disciplinary problems with the department, an ACLU representative told News Channel 8.After the video surfaced, he was placed on leave. On Tuesday Halpin resigned from the department, minutes before he was scheduled to be interviewed by Internal Affairs.
The city has been ranked by an advocacy organization as “the meanest city in America” for its treatment of homeless people. Former Sarasota Mayor Shannon Snyder recently told 8 On Your Side there’s a significant problem with bad behavior in the police department.
Current officials don’t agree. Sarasota Mayor Willie Shaw is glad the officer resigned. “It was an unacceptable behavior,” Shaw said. However, the mayor said Halpin’s actions are not reflective of a bigger problem within the department.
“No, I don’t. I don’t worry because the men and women we have within the Sarasota Police Department is one of the greatest group of people that you’re gonna find anywhere,” he said.
Shaw said the city is making great strides in caring for the homeless but acknowledged there’s more work to do. “We have to build from this point onward,” he said.
“This does not portray every officer that works day in and day out here at the Sarasota Police Department,” police spokeswoman Genevieve Judge said. “Chief (Bernadette) DiPino upholds our officers to the highest standard possible, and this is unacceptable.”
Michael Barfield with the ACLU said it’s good Halpin is off the force. “I hope that no other department will hire him. But as we’ve seen many times, officers resign and then move on to another department,” Barfield said in a statement. “Sometimes these resignations are just a manipulation of the system. Hopefully the investigation will go forward, make the findings that are appropriate, and any agency that may consider hiring Mr. Halpin in the future will be aware of his prior conduct.”
On July 29 the Sarasota County Sheriff’s Office disciplined a deputy for his role in the incident. Deputy Michael De Leo was suspended for 36 hours for failing to intervene. Venice Police Chief Tom McNulty said his officer was also nearby but said that officer was not involved so there won’t be an investigation.