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Sunday, August 31, 2008

[CT] Waterbury police "soul searching" & retraining after domestic firings

...The behavior of the three officers has triggered some soul-searching among the leaders of the police department, leading to department-wide retraining, revisions to policy and a closer look at how the city's police handle calls that involve their own members. "If you're not learning from the incidents, you're not doing anyone any favors," said Police Superintendent Neil O'Leary....

Waterbury officers say department's reputation at stake

Waterbury Republican American, CT
August 31, 2008
[Excerpts] WATERBURY — When [Lieutenant] Greg McCarty was fired last month, he became the third member of the Waterbury Police Department to be dismissed for misconduct this year. The spate of firings has focused new attention on how police deal with rule breakers and lawbreakers in their ranks. McCarty was fired for mishandling a domestic violence complaint involving a fellow officer, Captain Michael Edwards — who also was fired. A third policeman, Sgt. James Cagno, was given a written warning for his role in the incident. The behavior of the three officers has triggered some soul-searching among the leaders of the police department, leading to department-wide retraining, revisions to policy and a closer look at how the city's police handle calls that involve their own members. "If you're not learning from the incidents, you're not doing anyone any favors," said Police Superintendent Neil O'Leary. The incident that led to the firings of Edwards and McCarty exploded in June, when the 22-year-old girlfriend of Edwards called 911 to report that Edwards was drunk and abusive. McCarty went to the woman's apartment to investigate. An internal affairs report later concluded that McCarty waited 90 minutes before letting a supervisor know he was handling a call involving a fellow officer — and then omitted important details of the incident. McCarty also left the scene and allowed Edwards to return to his girlfriend's apartment, making it possible for another alleged assault to occur later that night. He didn't check Edwards or his unmarked patrol car for weapons before he left, according to the report. Edwards, who was arrested days after the incident, is accused of elbowing [victim] in the face later that night because she called police... Waterbury isn't the only department to have officers run afoul of the law or departmental policies. Officers in Seymour, Naugatuck, Torrington and Watertown — among other departments — have had their share of troubles. But cops are held to a higher standard of conduct than the average citizen, and people are watching when they slip up, said Seymour Police Chief Michael E. Metzler. Also, Metzler said, it is difficult to monitor an officer's off-duty conduct. And when an officer does get into trouble, it can tarnish the entire department. "When it paints, it paints the whole thing," Metzler said. "It's just not fair for the 30 to 35 guys that are doing their job on a daily basis"... When McCarty and Edwards were fired, it was a big deal for the Waterbury department, which has 300 sworn officers, O'Leary said. The department rewrote its policy manual in 2004, updating a document that hadn't been revamped since the early 1970s, he said. But the incident involving McCarty and Edwards meant even the updated policy needed to be strengthened. "There's no chance for any loopholes," O'Leary said of the new policy. All officers were required to take a 90-minute training session that highlighted the policy changes. During those sessions, they heard a recording of the 911 call that sparked the incident involving Edwards. As O'Leary puts it, it's one thing to read a transcript and it's another to hear a woman crying as she asks for help. "When someone calls 911 for help, they're going to get it, and if they don't, there will be sanctions," O'Leary said. [Full article here]

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