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Police sergeant demoted; officials say she ordered improper traffic stop

By Staff | Jul 21, 2010

A Cape Coral police sergeant has been demoted and suspended after ordering a traffic stop without probable cause on a woman and three others.
Sgt. Georgeann Lytle has been demoted to the rank of a patrol officer and has been suspended for 24 hours, according to a memo from interim Police Chief Jay Murphy dated Monday. Lytle also received a pay cut from $32.81 per hour to $28.82, or an annual salary cut of about $68,245 to $59,946.
The decreased pay falls within the salary range for a patrol officer, Cape police spokeswoman Connie Barron said. The starting pay for a sergeant is $29.60 per hour.
Following an internal investigation, Lytle was found in violation of using the prestige or influence of her official position, or time, facilities, equipment or supplies of the department, for her private gain, and engaging in conduct that adversely affects the morale and efficiency of the department or that tends to destroy public respect or confidence in the department or herself.
According to the report, Lytle called for a traffic stop at Club Square at about 2:30 a.m. June 18. Two officers responded and Lytle pointed out some vehicles to pull over. Of the two vehicles stopped, four people were detained, including the girlfriend of Lytle’s ex-boyfriend, Stephen Petrovich.
Petrovich is a former Cape detective and a son of former Police Chief Rob Petrovich. He recently was sentenced to 24 months in federal prison for his part in a $4.2 million mortgage fraud conspiracy.
The report states that Lytle identified the woman as her ex-boyfriend’s girlfriend and had prior knowledge that the woman worked at a nearby bar. The two officers checked the drivers’ licenses, and about 20-25 minutes later, the group was given their licenses back and told they could leave.
Lytle admitted to both officers that she thought the woman was talking about her on an online blog, and that she ordered the traffic stop because she thought she wanted to say something to the woman. One officer was upset about what happened and voiced concerns about Internal Affairs.
None of the vehicles were searched, and no one was handcuffed nor issued a citation. On June 22, the woman filed a complaint with the police department.
In an interview with investigators, Lytle stated that “she was not planning on stopping” the woman, that it “was more of an impulse. There was no thought on what was going to happen,” the report states. She said she later told the other officers that she “had made them make a bad traffic stop,” due to issues she had with the woman and Petrovich.
Lytle took full responsibility for the incident, adding that the other two officers were in “no way responsible for what happened,” the report says.
Murphy agreed with the chain of command’s recommendation for demotion, but shortened the recommended length of suspension from 80 hours without pay to 24 hours without pay. Lytle’s suspension dates are to be scheduled within 60 days of the memo.
“I took note of the fact that you willingly accepted responsibility for your actions … I also would agree that you acted on impulse and your actions were not pre-meditated,” Murphy wrote in the memo. “It was quite apparent that you recognized both the seriousness of these acts and that you have learned a great deal from this event.”
According to Barron, there are specific guidelines that law enforcement agencies follow when determining what disciplinary actions will be taken.
“The Florida Department of Law Enforcement has guidelines in place that define penalties for officer misconduct,” she said. “We check with FDLE and other law enforcement agencies to determine how they might have handled similar cases.”
Barron said the guidelines warranted a suspension, while mitigating factors such as Lytle’s willingness to take responsibility lead to a decrease in the length of the suspension. Misusing a position to facilitate a misconduct or losing the ability to function as a supervisor called for the demotion.
“There were aggravating circumstances that raised that simple suspension to a demotion,” Barron said.
Lytle was unavailable for comment Tuesday.