Wallingford PD fires sergeant
WALLINGFORD — A police sergeant, a 13-year department veteran, has been fired over allegations that she tried to cover up misconduct.
Officials said she directed a rookie to embark on a dangerous chase last fall with the operator of a motor scooter and then hid and manipulated cruiser recordings to cover it up.
Police Chief Douglas Dortenzio terminated Linda Lopresto after an investigation into the Sept. 30, 2011 incident revealed she had ordered a rookie officer to follow a scooter operator after a minor traffic violation. According to a termination letter from Dortenzio dated March 6, Lopresto directed the rookie on an “improper and life threatening pursuit” in the Hall Avenue area, then tried to conceal the pursuit by switching and backdating cruiser recordings and lied to investigators.
Lopresto could not be reached for comment.
According to town Personnel Director Terence Sullivan, Lopresto is appealing her termination. Lopresto’s contract allows her a three-step appeal process, Sullivan said. She is being represented by AFSCME Council 15 attorney Richard Gudis, who could not be reached for comment Wednesday.
If Sullivan upholds Dortenzio’s decision, the matter goes to mediation and arbitration. The last time a police officer was fired was in 2009, Sullivan said.
According to Dortenzio, police brass were not aware of the incident until Nov. 30, when another employee who was not involved brought it to management.
Lopresto was assigned to supervise a rookie officer whose cruiser was equipped with a system that records both audio and video when the cruiser’s emergency lights are switched on, Dortenzio wrote. Management sought the DVD recording for the date of the pursuit. An internal investigator found that, according to the label, Lopresto put the DVD into use on Sept. 22 and it was taken out of service by another sergeant on Oct. 5.
Upon viewing it, the investigator found no activity for Sept. 30.
“In short, the recording of the pursuit of Sept. 30, as well as any activity for the prior eight days, was missing even though the labeling of the existing DVDs did not denote any gap in recording dates,” Dortenzio stated.
The rookie officer confirmed the motor scooter chase in a Dec. 6 interview and told investigators that Lopresto instructed him not to radio the pursuit to the communications center, as is required.
Lopresto initially denied that anything unusual happened on Sept. 30 and said Officer Bradley Reed tried to stop a car. When told the pursuit involved a motor scooter and not a car, Lopresto said she told the officer to turn off his lights and siren.
Other details of Lopresto’s account were contradicted, Dortenzio stated, and it was later determined that she couldn’t have initiated a new DVD on Sept. 22 because she was out of town on training. Internal investigators determined that Lopresto removed the DVD on the same morning as the pursuit and backdated a new one to Sept. 22.
“There is no allowance by policy, nor is there any legitimate purpose, for backdating a DVD,” Dortenzio said. “The backdating on Sept. 30 constituted a deliberate concealment of the recording of that date and the prior eight days.”
Lopresto later presented the missing DVD, according to Dortenzio.
Lopresto was represented at a pre-disciplinary conference on March 2 by Sgt. Joseph Cafasso, president of AFSME Council 15, Local 1570. Cafasso could not be reached for comment.