ST. PETERSBURG — A dispatcher in training at the St. Petersburg Police Department was arrested after a woman complained he identified himself as a police officer while telling her to move her car out of the emergency lane at a shopping center, authorities said.
Then, when real officers spotted Thomas Toft minutes later, he was driving drunk, authorities say.
Toft, 55, of St. Petersburg, was charged with driving under the influence and falsely impersonating an officer Monday night, according to arrest records. He has been a communications trainee since Aug. 19, police spokesman Mike Puetz said, and was placed on paid administrative leave pending an internal affairs investigation.
The woman was parked in the emergency lane in front of the Dollar General store, 913 62nd Ave. S., at about 8:45 p.m. when Toft pulled up, identified himself as a police officer, and told her to move, Puetz said.
When the woman started circling the parking lot looking for another space, she noticed Toft following her and she became nervous as he was not in uniform, Puetz said. She called police and, shortly after patrol officers arrived, they noticed Toft pull into the parking lot without his headlights on, Puetz said.
A officer specializing in drunken driving investigations was summoned and determined Toft was drunk, Puetz said. One test showed his blood-alcohol to be .153 percent, and another showed it at .161 percent. A driver is presumed drunk if his blood-alcohol is .08 or higher, according to Florida law.