File photo by Paige Wilson

OBPD officer suspended over unjustified driver inquiries

This is Officer Justin Pereira's fourth disciplinary incident since April 2017.
By: 
Aug. 20, 2018

An Ormond Beach police officer was suspended earlier this summer for conducting non-call-related database searches last November for individuals sharing his last name. 

Investigation into Officer Justin Pereira's person checks was a result of a Driver and Vehicle Information Database audit, where it was discovered that Pereira made 29 inquiries in a 13-minute period on Nov. 14, 2017, according to an internal affairs report. The searches revolved around one family and their corresponding vehicle registrations. None of the inquiries were connected to any calls for service or attached to an ongoing investigation, police reported.

This was Pereira's fourth disciplinary incident since April, 2017, where he was disciplined for using someone else's email account. In March, 2018, he was counseled for failing to document a victim's injuries properly, and, in April 2018, Pereira received a written
Officer Justin Pereira. Courtesy photo

reprimand for disrespecting a superior.

It's all part of a learning process, according to Ormond Beach Police Chief Jesse Godfrey — as long as an officer doesn't make the same mistake twice.

“Things like this happen, and when they do, we hold them accountable," Godfrey said.

Godfrey said there are two forms of discipline in the police world: non-adverse and adverse. Pereira's last disciplinary incidents fell in the first category, meaning they were corrected with counseling or a reprimand.

This last one was considered adverse.

Pereira was issued a one-day and 12-hour suspension without pay for his actions, as shown in a memorandum by Godfrey. The chief stated in the document that any future violations of policy or procedure could result in progressive disciplinary action against him, including termination. 

Godfrey said Pereira is still considered a new officer, and that those who come to the Department with a military background, or something similar, get accustomed to the rules and regulations quicker. Godfrey explained that a police department's rules are the roadmap for officers to refer back to and "do the right thing" when no one is watching. New officers not used to that sometimes veer off, he said.

“Every once in a while, they step out of bounds for a bit and they get corrected and put back in balance," Godfrey said.

When Pereira was asked why he ran the inquiries through DAVID in February, police report that he initially said that the subject was a girl he used to go to school with, and that he "didn't run her for any law enforcement reason whatsoever." His statement would later change during an audio-taped interview in April, where he claimed that had been a "spontaneous, nervous utterance."

At that time Pereira told police that he ran the tag in question while handling a service call over the phone in a parking lot. Pereira said the vehicle with the tag was driving at a higher speed than normal in the parking lot. However, police reported that Pereira did not initiate a traffic stop or investigation on the matter, though he did use a DAVID purpose code used to verify the identity of individuals officers come into direct contact with.

The 29 DAVID searches included looking up drivers' photos, signatures, listed addresses and insurance information, all which police determined to be unjustified by Pereira's observation of a fast-driving vehicle. 

Police also included the searched individuals in the investigation, which trailed back to a woman from DeLand and her father, who died 10 years ago. The woman did not recognize Pereira when provided with his photo.

Godfrey said the department has moved on from this incident and are looking to the future. He said he never wants one of his officers, especially one who made a mistake, to feel like they're being "looked down upon" in the community.

“He’s a human being," Godfrey said. "He lives in this community.”

This story was updated at 3:32 p.m. on Tuesday, Aug. 21, to include OBPD Chief Jesse Godfrey's comments.