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Leonard Caponigro, the public face of Meriden police, calls it a career

Posted: Thursday, November 17, 2011
By Adam Wittenberg,
Record-Journal staff

MERIDEN - He's been in the Police Department since 1968, but come Jan. 2, Sgt. Leonard "Lenny" Caponigro will retire.

Caponigro, who has been the department's spokesman for decades and conducts internal affairs investigations, submitted his resignation letter Tuesday, just days after he announced in a brief email that Detective Lt. Mark Walerysiak "will be handling all requests from the media."

"It has been a pleasure to work for you and other members of this department over the years, and I'm sure I will miss most of the people who make up this family," Caponigro wrote in his letter, which was addressed to Chief Jeffry Cossette. He added that "I now find it necessary to ask that I be retired from active duty" in January.

Caponigro declined to comment further.

Detective Michael Siegler, the police union president, called Caponigro "one of the best cops this place has ever seen," and the last of a generation that includes Thomas Strielkauskas, a Meriden officer since the early 1970s.

Siegler and Lt. Patrick Gaynor, the former union president, both said Caponigro was weighed down by the number of internal investigations. Those have increased, they said, since Officers Brian Sullivan and Donald Huston lodged a complaint with the city alleging a pattern of brutality and nepotism in the department. Police named in the complaint, which has prompted investigations by federal officials and an attorney hired by the city, have also filed internal complaints against the two officers, and they have filed counter complaints.

Glen Milslagle had been working with Caponigro in internal affairs for several years until he was promoted recently to patrol lieutenant.

Siegler said Caponigro was so well respected that he served as union president while he was performing internal investigations, even though the union helps defend officers who are being investigated.

"That's how much he was trusted," Siegler said. "This guy's done two careers here."

Caponigro's salary is $76,107, and he will earn 70 percent of that, or $53,275, for his pension, according to the city's Personnel Department.

Caponigro's announcement comes amid retirements by Captain Donald Parker, Lt. Marvin Richards, Detective Lt. Michael Merrigan and Sgt. Jennifer Shelton, all of which have paved the way for promotions within the department.

The department has been under scrutiny since April, when Huston and Sullivan alleged disparate treatment and cover-up of brutality by Officer Evan Cossette, the chief's son. Huston and Sullivan had been disciplined by the chief, who has described their complaint as retaliation.

Caponigro investigated alleged incidents of brutality by Evan Cossette and is named in lawsuits filed by three men who say they were brutalized, but both Walerysiak and the chief said Caponigro's giving up the media spokesman role was unrelated to the federal probe, which began in April. The city has hired attorney Thomas V. Daily of Hartford to conduct a separate investigation.

Daily, who billed the city nearly $39,000 through the end of June, will give an update later this month on his status and whether he is drafting his report, according to City Manager Lawrence J. Kendzior. Daily has not submitted any more bills for his services, City Attorney Deborah Moore said. Federal officials have declined to comment on their investigation.




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