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Louisville Metro Police Department - Louisville, Kentucky

Officer Fired Over DUI Incident

Officer Fired Over DUI Incident

A Louisville police officer who had been suspended eight times since 1992 was fired yesterday for driving his take-home patrol car under the influence of alcohol and drugs.

Metro Police Chief Robert White terminated Officer John R. Kelly for violating three department rules by driving his cruiser on April 21 after drinking two glasses of vodka and taking Ambien, a prescription sleeping pill.

Kelly, 40, was arrested that day after he rear-ended a vehicle carrying two people at Cane Run and Camp Ground roads, and then drove into a ditch. He was charged with DUI and refusing to take a blood-alcohol test.

"Your conduct put every operator on the roadways you traveled in jeopardy of injury," White said in a letter announcing the firing. "I have zero tolerance for operating department-owned vehicles while under the influence."

White said he was firing Kelly for violating department rules regarding alcoholic beverages, obedience and unbecoming conduct. White's letter said Kelly had admitted drinking and taking the drug.

After Kelly failed "a series of field sobriety tests," he was taken to Norton Southwest Hospital for a blood-alcohol test but refused to cooperate, according to a police report. He had been off work for about nine hours when the wreck occurred.

Kelly pleaded guilty to DUI on Aug. 26 and paid a $200 fine and $126.50 in court costs. The charge for refusing to take the test was dismissed.

Richard Dotson, the president of the Fraternal Order of Police, called the firing "a harsh penalty" and said it would be appealed to the police merit board. Dotson said Kelly would not comment.

Officer Dwight Mitchell, a metro police spokesman, said White wouldn't elaborate on the letter.

Kelly had been disciplined 13 previous times in his 13 years on the force, according to department records. He had received 28 letters of appreciation for various actions, including making arrests for drug crimes, break-ins and robberies.

White had disciplined him once previously after the merger in January 2003 of the old Louisville and Jefferson County police departments. Kelly got a letter of reprimand for reporting late for an assignment.

Under the police contract, the chief may consider only the last three years of disciplinary action when imposing a new punishment.

Kelly's most recent suspension was in July 2000 -- two days without pay for making a misdemeanor arrest without seeing the offense, cursing at a woman, failing to be courteous and not answering questions truthfully. His longest suspension was 20 days in 1994 for allegedly interfering with a narcotics investigation and lying to officers investigating a car accident, according to disciplinary letters in his file.

In June 1998, Kelly was suspended for 11 days for an incident in which he allegedly gave two attorneys weapons, including his department handgun, to carry through courthouse security. Kelly said he was testing the security system, but he had not been assigned to do so nor did he report his findings until questioned about the test, according to the disciplinary letter.

Three of Kelly's prior disciplinary actions involved traffic incidents; two were related to accidents in a patrol car.

Among Kelly's other disciplinary letters were accusations of sexual harassment, neglect of duty, failing to get to work on time, taking unauthorized vacation time and conduct unbecoming an officer.