I-Team: Floyd Co. Sergeant dodges DUI for demotion

I-Team: Floyd Co. Sergeant dodges DUI for demotion

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FLOYD COUNTY, Ga. -

A county police officer is questioned for drinking and driving. But, rather than get a DUI, he walks away with a demotion. FOX 5 I-Team's Dana Fowle took a closer look at the details of this story, which aren't as black and white as they might seem.

What is clear is that Sgt. Josh Harkins, of the Floyd County Police Department, admitted to drinking and driving his truck. But, the case gets blurry because it was a training session that didn't go as planned.

Dash-cam video shows Sgt. Harkins behind the wheel of his truck. He's just been stopped in Floyd County for suspicion of driving while intoxicated.   

The video shows the young Floyd County officer struggling with a sobriety field test.  

Police say his blood alcohol level was 0.12 -- far above the 0.08 legal limit.

Police Chief Bill Shiflett said, "He told us in the interview, when he took responsibility for what he did, that he had four beers since 7:30 p.m."

But, Sgt. Harkins did not get a DUI.  Here's where the story of that May night gets strange. Chief Shiflett says the midnight drunk-driving stop was a department-sanctioned training event.

"Sgt. Harkins contacted his captain and told him about the scenario and asked his permission to do it, and of course, he said, ‘Yes,'" Shiflett said.

The only thing is Sgt. Harkins didn't say he would be drinking to the captain. The sergeant was training a rookie cop on how to conduct a DUI stop. The chief says the sergeant drank beer at home, called 9-1-1 and then got into his truck.

The chief said, "The fact that he actually was behind the wheel and drove for 50 feet on the roadway and another 100 feet to come back, turn around and get in his driveway."

When the other officers realized Sgt. Harkins really was drunk, they offered to drive his truck to his driveway. Sgt. Harkins, their supervisor, said "No."

The police chief said, "Placed the training officer and trainee in pretty bad situation, in a peculiar situation. His intentions were good. His heart was good. But, his choice was terrible. His judgment was terrible."

On a taped interview, Sgt. Harkins explains to his superiors how a mock situation got very real.

"I'm not going to make an excuse for it because I did it," Sgt. Harkins said. "Looking back now, shouldn't have done it. Bad idea, bad choices."

Over the years, Harkins has made a lot of bad choices.  His chief says, he's been reprimanded 13 times - for everything from excessive use of force to ignoring subpoenas to causing an accident. But, he's also received eight commendations.  

The police chief said, "He has the intention, the good intention to do good, but poor choices, bad consequences."

This time he got demoted and put on a tough, one-year probation plan. But, no DUI.  

As of why he didn't get his sergeant the DUI, the police chief says, "There wasn't a state-administered chemical test given to have enough evidence to take to court."

The test these officers used is not admissible in court, but there was enough evidence for his superiors to drop the sergeant title for a lower Patrol Officer First Class. Harkins performance through the next year will be heavily monitored. He has a 12-point list of conditions that he must abide by during the next year.

If he fails, the chief says he will be fired.

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