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Monday, Oct 20, 2014
Crime & Courts

St. Pete police officer fired over DUI arrest tactics


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A St. Petersburg police officer was terminated for using excessive force during a DUI arrest earlier this year and trying to hide video of the arrest from investigators, the police department said Thursday.

Officer Kenneth Pienik used unnecessary force and used improper conduct in an arrest that occurred on January 31, police said.

Police officers were investigating an unresponsive person who was in a parked vehicle with its engine running in the parking lot of the North Shore Pool, police said.

Officers thought it was a DUI case, and Pienik, who was a member of the DUI unit, went to the scene to help investigate. Pienik parked his patrol car to allow video recording of his investigation.

When he approached the suspect, the man, identified as Stephen Woodworth, was leaning against his car to help keep his balance, police said.

Woodworth became uncooperative, argumentative and asked for a supervisor, police said. Woodworth’s reaction caused Pienik to lose his temper, so he cursed and threw his clipboard to the ground, police said.

Pienik then grabbed Woodworth and forced to the ground to arrest him, police said. Woodworth was uncooperative and placed his arms under his body, police said.

Eventually, Woodworth was arrested and charged with DUI, police said.

On another day, Pienik met with the Pinellas County State Attorney’s Office about the case. An assistant state attorney asked Pienik for the video recording from his patrol car. Pienik told the assistant state attorney that it had “no evidentiary value” and it was going to “disappear,” police said.

After the meeting, the assistant state attorney contacted Pienik’s supervisor, and the state attorney’s office made an official request for the video, police said.

Pienik then turned in a video of the incident showing Woodworth being transported in the patrol car, but it didn’t show Woodworth before he was arrested, police said.

The state attorney’s office requested another video of Pienik’s investigation and arrest, police said. A supervisor made it available, police said.

The police department started an internal investigation.

Last year, Pienik was suspended for 80 hours after he engaged in a nonsexual relationship, some of it on Facebook, with a 17-year-old member of the Explorer Program. Pienik also was removed from his job as an advisor to the program.

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