More officers on desk duty will likely to drive up OT costs in Meriden
MERIDEN — With four more officers now on desk duty after the deaths of two city residents early Saturday morning, the cost of maintaining staffing levels on the streets is likely to increase.
Officers Robert Gasparri, Margaret Smusz, David Buck and Kenneth Eagen were all placed on administrative duty Saturday, in accordance with department policy. Eagen and Gasparri were involved with the shooting death of 45-year-old Raul Rosado (also known as Angel Cajigas), while Buck and Smusz were present when 48-year-old Angel Hiraldo was shocked with a department-issued Taser. Hiraldo was taken to the hospital after he began to have difficulty breathing, and later died.
Police reported that Hiraldo threatened officers with a hammer, while Rosado advanced toward them with a pair of scissors.
The change in the four officers’ work status brings the total number of patrol officers on administrative duty to at least five. Police did not return a request for an exact figure.
They join Officer Evan Cossette, who was taken off the street last April after the FBI and state police launched investigations into allegations that he had played a role in several brutality incidents.
Officers placed on administrative duty work only the required 40 hours per week, but a provision in their contract entitles them to overtime payments equal to the average that they worked over the 26 weeks prior to the change in their work status. Cossette, whose father is Chief Jeffry Cossette, receives $962.80 per week in overtime pay, which has added up to more than $50,000 in total.
Personnel Director Caroline Beitman confirmed that Gasparri, Eagen, Smusz and Buck will all receive overtime pay while on desk duty. Exact figures were not available.
The officers are unlikely to return to regular duty before state police and the department complete investigations into Rosado and Hiraldo’s deaths, police internal affairs investigator Sgt. Darrin McKay said earlier this week. There is no clear timeline for when the investigations might be concluded.
“I don’t know how long that will last. Certainly we’d like to get our investigation going right away, which we are,” said McKay. “Typically, a criminal investigation will take longer than an internal one.”
The department has already overspent the $900,000 in overtime funds it was allotted for the current fiscal year, although Chief Cossette has consistently offset overages in that account in the past to return a balanced budget.
City Manager Lawrence J. Kendzior could not be reached for comment Wednesday, but Finance Director Michael Lupkas said the department had spent $1,016,324 for overtime since July.