Ex-Flagler Sheriff’s Deputy Patrick Pielarz Was Fired for “Arrogance” Before Arrest on Strangulation Charge
FlaglerLive | February 27, 2016
Last Updated: Feb. 27, 3 p.m.
Five months ago Patrick Pielarz was among 13 new recruits Flagler County Sheriff Jim Manfre swore in as deputies. Pielarz, 20, had previously been a Sheriff’s Office Explorer.
Four weeks ago he was fired. “He did not make it through our field training program,” a sheriff’s spokesman said. A review of documents relating to his dismissal point to a pattern of arrogance and abuse of authority that persisted even his supervisors repeatedly counseled him. (See the original documents, including the arrest report, below.)
On Thursday, Pielarz was arrested on a felony battery by strangulation charge following an altercation with his live-in 22-year-old girlfriend in Bunnell.
His troubles at the sheriff’s office began soon after he was sworn in.
In early December, training officers at the sheriff’s office felt compelled to formally counsel Pielarz and “set expectations,” according to a Dec. 9 memo from Comdr. Paul Bovino. “The meeting was to discuss several deficiencies that were identified in his DOR’s and also the fact that several [Field Training Officers] were concerned about his acceptance of feedback. I was told by the FTOs that his attitude toward their evaluations was poor and that he was failing to respond to some of their training techniques.” Bovino himself, along with other officers, spoke with Pielarz about his issues. Pielarz said he’d understood the expectations and told Bovino he’d “focus on improving the areas of concern.” No further action was taken at the time.
Matters did not improve.
In late January, a manager at Palm Pointe, the housing complex where Pielarz was moving in with his girlfriend, wrote a formal complaint to the sheriff’s office about Pielarz. She described him asking about security, then pulling out his badge and say that he knew “all the calls that come through here.” The manager noted that Pielarz “seemed a bit arrogant,” then began asking if there were “discounts” for officers who live on the property–an inappropriate question that implies a request for favors, and an abuse of authority. He then went on to ask for three parking spaces–one for his car, one for his girlfriend’s, and one for his patrol car. He suggested, chuckling, that no one would “bother” with his police car, only to be told that, “police or not,” his vehicles would be towed if parked in inappropriate spots. “He asked a few more questions then left in a bit of a pushy way,” the manager said.
In a subsequent report to Bovino, a deputy explained that the property manager had been so concerned by Pielarz’s behavior that she’d been “thankful her husband was nearby to assist her if need be.”
A week later the property manager filed yet another complaint, this one stating that several residents at the complex had been “concerned and afraid to say anything to [Pielarz] because he has flashed his badge and told people he is an officer, so they don’t want him to come after them.” By then, Pielarz’s car had had to be towed for parking in other residents’ spots.
In mid-January, deputy Nate Smith wrote Bovino that Pielarz’s training was not improving, with “numerous deficiencies” observed in a certain phase of his training. His skills at writing reports were lacking. He would leave out important parts of narratives in his reports. He was often late turning them in, causing overtime issues. And, Smith reported, it became “painfully evident” that Pielarz had a personal hygiene issue that would affect his personal image “and can definitely be a barrier when communicating with other agency members and the public.” The report concluded with concerns that extending the training phase may not be sufficient as Pielarz’s response had been inconsistent.
Ten days later, Senior Cmdr. Stephen Cole wrote Chief Deputy Jeff Hoffman to recommend that Pielarz be “relieved from his position” for failing to successfully complete the probationary period. His remedial training had led to no improvements, and Cole referred to the incident at the housing complex as a serious lapse, where he had appeared to the manager as if he were trying to gain “some type of monetary gain due to his political position.”
It appeared that the manager’s complaint had not been the only such report. “The behavior described by this complainant,” Cole wrote, “is consistent with other feedback from the FTO’s as Deputy Pielarz being arrogant, unprofessional, and [displaying] an inability of properly talking to the public.”
He was soon fired.
According to the account his girlfriend gave police in Pielarz’s arrest report, he had received an “inappropriate” text from another woman, prompting his girlfriend to say, “I hate you.” Pielarz, who had been drinking vodka and been sleeping, then jumped out of bed, followed her to the bathroom, allegedly placed his hands around her neck and said: “What did you say to me?” The alleged victim said “she had her back against the towel rod and Mr. Pielarz reached both of his hands around her, grabbed the towel rod, and broke it from its supports.”
When the woman tried to leave, she said he took her phone and purse and pushed her onto the couch. The woman said she “screamed for help and Mr. Pielarz stated he was going to kill himself.” He then left the apartment at 4600 East Moody Boulevard, got on his motorcycle, sped through the parking lot, then returned to offer his apologies to his girlfriend. (The couple had been dating since November and been living together since January.)
In Pielarz’s account to deputies, he had been sleeping on his bed when “he awoke to what he believed to be the dog,” according to the arrest report. He “pushed the dog away but in fact it was his girlfriend.” He said he’d received the text message that had upset her, so he decided to leave the apartment with his dog but his girlfriend continued to argue with him, following him to his motorcycle, where a Bunnell Police Department officer ended the confrontation. The officer noted lacerations to Pielarz’s right hand, which Pielarz attributed to the towel rod.
He faces one count of domestic battery by strangulation, a third-degree felony. As of this morning, his booking was not appearing in the sheriff’s jail website, though he was booked there late Thursday night or early Friday morning. Court papers indicate he was placed under the supervision of pre-trial services and issued a no-contact order regarding his girlfriend. His felony arraignment is set for March 28 before Circuit Judge Matthew Foxman.