State's internal affairs chief fired for "conduct unbecoming of a state employee"

COLUMBIA, SC (WIS) - A high-ranking state law enforcement officer is out of a job after a middle-of-the-night traffic stop in Columbia.

State Department of Public Safety Director Leroy Smith fired his internal affairs chief, Bobby Collins, after a trooper stopped him on suspicions of drunk driving three weeks ago. 

Patrol cam video shows Collins, the chief of the Office of Professional Responsibility, not cooperating with a field sobriety test, and at times, getting testy with South Carolina Highway Patrol Trooper S.M. Groubert.

COLLINS: "Can I ask you why you stopped me?"
TROOPER: "Yeah, you were swerving all over the road. What's wrong with you?"
COLLINS: "I wasn't swerving all over the road."
TROOPER: "I videotaped it and you definitely were."

Collins is the man responsible for investigating and handing out punishment to employees who violate DPS policies.

TROOPER: "You're not following my direction. Just calm down for a minute."
COLLINS: "I'm not calm. I'm pissed is what I am."
TROOPER: "For what?"
COLLINS: "I'm pissed because you are harassing me."
TROOPER: "Sir, I am not harassing you."
COLLINS: "You are."

The tape shows the back-and-forth during the attempted sobriety test that went on for several minutes.

TROOPER: "You're making it very difficult. I cannot check for--"
COLLINS: "You are--"
TROOPER: "Go ahead and turn around for me, alright?"

Groubert says he had no choice but to arrest Collins because he wouldn't cooperate with the sobriety test commands.

TROOPER: "Right now, I'm placing you under arrest."
COLLINS: "Because I was going to the 24-hour Walmart? What are you placing me under arrest for?"

Groubert said on the tape he had no idea who Collins was, but after Groubert put Collins in cuffs, the chief let him know.

TROOPER: "You don't have any open containers, any drugs, anything like that in the vehicle?"
COLLINS: "I don't do drugs. I'm the OPR chief."
TROOPER: "With Highway Patrol?"
COLLINS: "I'm your OPR chief!"

After that exchange, Collins continues to plead his case to Groubert.

COLLINS: "I have 20/20 vision. I don't drink alcoholic beverages. I'm not on prescription medication, I'm not under the influence of anything."

Groubert argued he couldn't be sure without finishing the tests.

The tape shows Collins then ask for the trooper's supervisor and DPS brass multiple times throughout the stop.

Thirty-three minutes into the stop, the trooper's corporal walks up, then fields several calls to and from superiors off camera.

Collins, convinced the stop was harassment, spells it out off camera for the trooper.

COLLINS: "What you are doing to me now is basically what South Carolina has had a bad reputation for through the years."

COLLINS: "It's a culture here and even when you realize it, you don't have the humility to say, 'You know what? I made a mistake.'"

The corporal, who spoke with multiple unidentified supervisors off camera, walked back to Collins to make a request for a field sobriety test. Collins complied, and passed them all.

TROOPER: "I tried to explain to him, probably 20 times, 'Sir, if you just calm down and cooperate with me,' it wouldn't lead to all this."

Within hours of the stop, DPS Chief Smith got the video and watched it.

Smith and Collins both worked at the Florida Highway Patrol and months after Smith took over at DPS in 2011, Smith gave Collins the job here. Smith, who signed Collins' termination letter, declined an interview with us to explain exactly why he fired his pick to lead internal affairs. The termination letter states the director fired Collins for conduct unbecoming of a state employee.

Collins refused to sign his termination letter.

We went to Collins' home, to find out what happened in that traffic stop that cost him his job. Collins didn't answer and didn't return our calls.

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