Andrew Halpin, Florida police officer was suspended after a newspaper revealed video showing him feed an intoxicated inmate like a zoo animal — apparently while speaking to the homeless man like a dog.
Randy Miller, 44, was booked into the Sarasota County Jail July 18 on trespassing charges, jail records indicate. As he was being booked into the facilities, a Sarasota Police officer took a few actions that have since raised eyebrows at this department.
A jail surveillance video made public following a request from the Sarasota Herald Tribune shows Sarasota Officer Andrew Halpin throwing peanuts into a handcuffed Miller’s mouth, much like a person might feed a dog.
Some of the peanuts didn’t make it into Miller’s mouth and fell to the floor instead. Miller is seen on the video a few minutes later eating them off the floor. Halpin is then shown kicking the peanuts closer to Miller.
Halpin, the Tribune reported, also issued “dog commands” to Miller.
“I’m disappointed in what I saw in this video,” said Chief Bernadette DiPino Monday after viewing the video. “Due to the actions I’ve seen on camera, I immediately initiated an internal affairs investigation.”
Halpin, the department wrote in an email to media, has been placed on paid administrative leave pending the outcome of the investigation. He has been with the agency since Nov. 1, 2006.
Several Sarasota County detention deputies are also seen on the video, witnessing the incident, but making no attempt to stop it. The sheriff’s office is looking into the actions, as well, the Tribune reported.
Miller has a lengthy record in Sarasota County, mostly related to petty offenses, such as trespassing and public consumption of alcohol, jail records indicate. He remained behind bars Monday in lieu of $500 bond. His arraignment date has been set for Aug. 6.
The circumstances surrounding Miller’s arrest have caught the attention of homeless advocates in the state.
“It’s this kind of egregious conduct that gets Sarasota labeled as the ‘Meanest City in the USA’ towards the homeless,” the Tribune quoted American Civil Liberties Union of Florida vice president Michael Barfield as saying.
The incident comes on the heels of near-instant Internet fame for another Sarasota homeless man. Donald Gould’s story went viral when a passerby caught him playing “Come Sail Away” on the piano.