6 Police Officers Disciplined Over Party
Officials Say Underage Person Was Drinking At Party One Of Them Organized
January 14, 2011|
By KEN BYRON
The Hartford Courant
PLAINVILLE — — Six town police officers have been disciplined after an investigation found problems within the department and revealed that an underage ambulance company employee had been drinking alcohol at a private party organized by one of its officers.
Department officials said four of the disciplined officers knew or should have known that the woman was underage and failed to report the incident to the department.
An investigation concluded that the officers did not promptly report improper behavior by officers, as department rules require, and were initially uncooperative. Two of the officers lied to investigators, the report concluded.
One of the disciplined officers, Sgt. Timothy Mullaney, didn't attend the party, but received the harshest penalty — 30 days' suspension. He was charged with making up a fake arrest warrant as a prank and putting it into the departmental mailbox of one of the officers who attended the party.
Among those disciplined were two other veteran sergeants, Dean Cyr and Richard Marques.
According to the investigation report, Cyr and Officer Matthew D'Amore went with the woman twice to a package store to buy a type of liquor she was drinking, Jeremiah Weed Sweet Tea Vodka, and returned to the party. The report said the woman was eight months shy of her 21st birthday at the time.
The woman was later seen drinking the vodka, but Cyr and D'Amore insisted to investigators that they simply brought the liquor back to the party and did not give it to the woman, who was identified only as an employee of American Medical Response, a Waterbury-based ambulance company. The report described her as being uncooperative with the investigation..
The department investigated whether Cyr or the others should be charged with delivering alcohol to a minor, a felony, but did not find enough evidence to make an arrest.
Cyr was suspended for eight days and D'Amore for three. Cyr said Thursday that he had no reason to believe the woman was underage. "She appeared to be well into her 20s, and I never gave her anything to drink," Cyr said.
Other officers who were at the party and subsequently disciplined were Marques, who was suspended for one day; Cpl. John Quilter, who hosted the party and was suspended for one day; and Officer Clifford Roper, who received a verbal warning.
"I think the department handled this fairly and appropriately," Quilter said. "A couple of guys made errors in judgment and it's time to move on."
Cyr, however, said the investigation and subsequent discipline were too harsh.
"I think the department brought more attention on this than was needed," Cyr said. "It could have been handled differently, but I also regret that the chief had been on the job only about a month and then he had to deal with this. It wasn't fair to him and I feel bad about that."
The three-month investigation was started within days after the Aug. 7 party, which was attended by as many as 80 people. The department received an anonymous complaint, said Police Chief Matthew Catania.
Rumors spread quickly within the department that an underage woman had been drinking at the party. Mullaney put a fake arrest warrant "face page" that listed delivery of alcohol to a minor as the charge in the department mailbox of one of the officers who attended the party.
During questioning about the prank, Mullaney initially denied involvment, then later admitted it. Mullaney could not be reached for comment.
Roper was punished because he failed to report an incident at the party in which Cyr, who had passed out, was posed as if taking part in a sexual act. Others at the party took photographs that were later posted on Facebook.
Catania took over as chief in August after a 25-year career with Simsbury police.
"The public can trust that we will look into these things — we will not sweep them under the rug," Catania said Friday.
The strongly worded investigation report by Lt. Brian Mullins describes behavior that department officials said is "troubling."
"The investigation exposed significant problems regarding the credibility and judgment of police officers, including some of supervisory rank," Mullins stated in the opening sections of his report. "I also encountered the troubling tendency of many police officers to prefer remaining silent rather than promptly reporting improper and potentially criminal conduct."
Mullins said what he found reflects on the individual officers and the department.
"When police officers are so fearful, or so intimidated, or so ethically confused that they will not report such improprieties when it involves other police officers, there is a significant problem within the culture of that police organization," Mullins said in the report. He said that many problems he has uncovered in this and previous internal affairs investigations involved several sergeants.
Catania said he, too, sees deficiencies in the department's front-line supervisors and has initiated training for them.
"We have to improve the supervisors," he said. "It is essential for supervisors to step forward and take a leadership role, and in a small department, they take on a management role."
Mullins' report also details what officials characterized as interference with and attempts to influence the investigation. He cited comments by Capt. Peter Costanzo, the department's second-in-command, who told Catania in September that Cyr had expressed concern about being treated unfairly.
According to the report, Costanzo told Catania he didn't believe it was "desirable" for the department to conduct "such a thorough criminal investigation" into the party.
Cyr said he never asked Costanzo to speak on his behalf. Constanzo, who is retiring Wednesday after a 32-year career with the department, said he was not trying to interfere with the investigation.
"My advice to the chief was that Lt. Mullins is thorough but that he is very slow and that an internal affairs investigation should be timely and done as quickly as possible so that there is no additional harm or disruption to the officers involved," Costanzo said. "My advice was that the chief keep a close eye on Lt. Mullins to ensure that the investigation was moving at an acceptable pace."