Thursday, March 19, 2009

Sgt. Terry Stayer Investigated for Falsifying Time Sheet


A police sergeant is under investigation after a complaint that she falsified her time sheet for the past six months, claiming she was at work while she was attending college classes during the day.

The Haltom City Law Enforcement Association filed the complaint against Sgt. Terry Stayer, who is over the police department’s internal affairs investigations. It alleges that the sergeant also had used a city-owned vehicle to attend classes during the day.

She is not allowed to use the vehicle, according to the complaint, filed with city officials last month and with the City Council earlier this week.

Attempts to reach Stayer were unsuccessful. An office voice-mail message indicated that the sergeant was out until Monday. An e-mail sent late Thursday by Interim Chief of Police Patrick C. Bridges said that Stayer could not discuss the matter because it is a pending investigation.

The 70-member association first made the complaint on Feb. 12 to then-Haltom City Police Chief Ken Burton and the city’s human resources department.

But it also sent the complaint to city council members Wednesday, unhappy with what the association saw as a lack of action on the matter.

“The HCLEA fears that this extremely serious and sensitive allegation is not being adequately investigated,” Haltom City police Sgt. Shawn Holt said in an e-mail to council members on Wednesday.

But City Manager Tom Muir said on Thursday an internal investigation should be complete in about 10 days. Muir said the city has retained Fort Worth attorney Bettye Lynn to investigate the complaint.

“We did get on it,” Muir said. “They (association members) are not happy because they wanted the Texas Rangers or another outside agency to investigate, but I decided to go with retaining counsel.”

The complaint alleged that police officials were showing favoritism toward the sergeant because she remains in her position as supervisor in charge of professional standards and is responsible for internal affairs investigations.

Last year, Stayer alleged that four other Haltom City police officers falsified time sheets, according to the complaint. At least one of the officers was placed on administrative leave, association members said.

One was charged with theft; charges against the other three were dropped, the complaint states.

Police officials told association members that Stayer would be working on Saturdays to make up the four hours needed to attend the college classes, according to the complaint.

But the complaint states that officers have not seen the sergeant on Saturdays and officers are not allowed to make up the work at home.

Former Judge George Korpita Convicted of 2nd DWI Charge


A former municipal court judge in Morris County who lost that job after admitting to drunken driving has been convicted of another DWI charge.

George R. Korpita received a suspended 45-day jail term after being found guilty Thursday in Sparta Township Municipal Court. He also must continue to attend Alcoholics Anonymous meetings six days a week for two years _ the time his driver's license will be revoked _ and will be jailed if he misses meetings.

The conviction stemmed from Korpita's arrest in February 2008.

He had served as a judge for Dover, Rockaway Borough and Victory Gardens before stepping down in December 2007. That came after he admitted driving drunk in Roxbury a few weeks earlier and threatening the police officers who arrested him.

Trooper Carrie Rindal Reprimanded for Using Car to Ram Van

The Minnesota State Patrol announced Wednesday that it has reprimanded a state trooper who used her squad car to ram the van of a Hudson, Wis., man and then arrest him for fleeing.

A State Patrol review board concluded that while trooper Carrie Rindal had reason for heightened concern, ramming the van was not justified at the time or place she did it.

The board also found that the driver, Sam Salter, 40, who had his three young children with him in the van, was not "actively intending to flee" during the incident in St. Paul on New Year's Eve.

Col. Mark Dunaski, chief of the patrol, called it "a regrettable incident" that will be incorporated into a semi-annual training program all troopers will go through this year.

Rindal arrested Salter at gunpoint for fleeing, and took him to the Ramsey County Law Enforcement Center, where he was jailed for 37 hours. The county attorney's office later declined to prosecute.

The incident was first reported by the Star Tribune in February.

Salter said in an interview that he never attempted to flee and wanted only to find a safe place to pull over, but there was snow on the shoulder, and he did not want to be struck from behind. He was eastbound on Interstate 94 shortly before midnight when he saw the trooper's emergency lights. He turned off on Hwy. 61 and turned right onto Burns Avenue. He was pulling over when Rindal struck his van in what is known as a P.I.T. maneuver, which stands for pursuit intervention technique.

The children were in the back seats of his Toyota Sienna van. His wife picked up the kids while he was transported to jail.

"I think there are some people might say, 'Well, gee, a letter of reprimand, that sounds like a slap on the wrist,'" said Dunaski in an interview. "Minnesota takes that very seriously. We don't hand out a lot of letters of reprimand." She will also get additional training, Dunaski said. The Patrol said Rindal declined to comment.

Salter said he appreciated the patrol's statement

"I feel they came to the right, logical decision," he said. "I think they came to the decision that I was indeed not fleeing. ... I spent two nights in jail for something I didn't do, and it should have been clear to them at the time."

Salter has discussed a relatively small settlement with the patrol, but gave no details.

Rindal's P.I.T. maneuver resulted in two dents with damage estimated at $2,200.

Three weeks after the incident, the patrol mailed Salter a $130 ticket for making an illegal lane change. Dunaski said that in retrospect, it probably should not have been sent. Salter has already paid the fine.

The patrol's Critical Incident Review Board, a seven-member body, found that one minute and 23 seconds elapsed from the time Rindal activated her lights to when she performed the P.I.T. maneuver.

Dunaski declined to say it was improper for Rindal to do a P.I.T. He said the problems were when she did it and where, and how the vehicle was struck. He said it should not have been done next to a snow bank or curb that could damage the vehicle.

"Part of the regrettable portion of this was that Mr. Salter had to spend two days incarcerated," said Dunaski, noting Salter was in jail all New Year's Day. He said on-duty supervisors will make inquiries in the future in such cases.

Dunaski praised Rindal, an 11-year veteran, for her work getting impaired drivers off the highway. He said that while a "poor decision," was made in this case, it should be seen in the context that it was New Year's Eve, and she was looking for impaired drivers. He said she saw traffic violations and that when she turned on the emergency lights, Salter did not stop.

Asked what drivers should do if a trooper is behind them, he said, "When you see a vehicle approaching with red lights and sirens, the driver's responsibility is to pull over immediately." He said law enforcement officers are trained to stop vehicles in places that are safe, and drivers should rely on the officers' judgment.

But he added that he understood Salter's concern about finding a safe spot.

Information & Video:

Lawsuit settlement:

Sgt. Mark Sawyer Charged with Domestic Assault


A Maine State Police sergeant arrested Monday on charges of aggravated domestic assault is on paid administrative leave.

Mark Sawyer, 43, of Sparkling Lake Lane, was arrested at 6:30 p.m. Monday after police received a call about 5 p.m. of an alleged assault, police Capt. Rick Stubbert said Thursday.

Sawyer was booked at 7:30 p.m. and bailed from the Police Department on $500 cash bond, Stubbert said.

"The case is still under investigation; there's a lot of stuff we're still following up on," he said.

Stubbert said he could not release details of the case while it is being investigated. He said four officers went to Sawyer's home Monday where he was arrested. Sawyer was cooperative, he said.

Aggravated assault is a Class B felony. Stubbert said no weapons were involved.

"The 'aggravated' part comes into play as far as the victim's injuries," he said.

He said he could not reveal information about those injuries.

Stubbert said information is not being withheld because Sawyer is a law enforcement officer; Oakland police are doing exactly what they would with anyone else arrested under such circumstances.

"That's been our biggest concern right from the beginning -- to handle it just like any other case," he said.

Stephen McCausland, spokesman for the state Department of Public Safety, said Thursday that Sawyer is a 23-year member of the state police and is a sergeant with the commercial vehicle enforcement unit.

McCausland said he could not release more information about Sawyer's case.

"He is on administrative leave with pay pending the outcome of this charge," he said.

Sawyer's attorney, Michael Turndorf of Brunswick, said his client is innocent.

"It's not a question of being innocent until proven guilty; simply put, he is innocent," Turndorf said Thursday. "The fact of his arrest is not evidence of anything other than he was arrested."

Turndorf said there is more to the story, and when the story comes out, Sawyer will not be convicted of any offense. He said the call to police about the alleged assault did not come from Sawyer's home.

"There was no call at all from the alleged victim," Turndorf said.

The standard by which police officers conduct an arrest is based on probable cause and probable cause is really the lowest standard of proof that exists, he said.

"All they need is a pointed finger to arrest someone and they don't need much more. That's not any criticism against police -- that's just a statement of fact."

Turndorf declined to identify the alleged victim, or say whether it was a family member of Sawyer's.

Kennebec County Deputy District Attorney Alan Kelley also said he could not divulge details.

"The case is still under investigation, and we don't feel comfortable revealing any other information at this point," he said.

Sawyer is scheduled to appear at a hearing in Kennebec County Superior Court in Augusta at 8:30 a.m. April 14.

"As it approaches, obviously we're going to have more and more information and at some point, it will be appropriate to discuss it," Kelley said. "But not right now."

Other Information:

Former Officer Lawrence Alspaugh II Enters Diversion Program After Ramming into Cast-Iron Fence


A former Tampa police officer has been offered an agreement on a criminal charge stemming from an incident where investigators say he rammed the fence of a romantic rival.

The Polk County State Attorney's Office last week submitted a proposed agreement to Lawrence Alspaugh II, allowing him to enter a pre-trial diversion program for first-time offenders.

Alspaugh and his attorney have not yet responded to the offer, Chip Thullbery, a spokesman for the state attorney's office, said today.

Alspaugh, 32, resigned from the Tampa Police Department in January during a departmental investigation that found he had violated several policies. One of those was using a law-enforcement database to pull the driver's license photo of a Lakeland man he considered a romantic rival and posting the picture on MySpace, Tampa police spokeswoman Laura McElroy said.

Alspaugh had been with the department since Nov. 2003. He will not receive a pension, police said.

Alspaugh, who lives in Lakeland, was off-duty in November when the Polk County Sheriff's Office said he rammed the cast-iron fence of Lakeland resident Donald Hardwick with a Nissan sport-utility vehicle.

McElroy said the situation arose because Hardwick had a relationship with Alspaugh's former girlfriend. His being off-duty at the time did not dampen the seriousness of the incident, she said. "Once you pin on the badge, you're always an officer."

In an interview today, Alspaugh said he and his girlfriend, who have a young son together, were still involved in a relationship when he learned she was seeing Hardwick. About two days before the fence incident, he was so upset about the situation he was prescribed sedatives, he said.

Alspaugh said that though he did strike the fence, it wasn't deliberate. "I was driving on sedatives when I shouldn't have been,'' he said.

Alspaugh said he has been unemployed since he resigned. "I'm trying to remain in law enforcement.''
Hardwick provided a description of the vehicle and the license tag to deputies, who stopped Alspaugh a short distance away from Hardwick's home.

In a sheriff's office report, Alspaugh told deputies he had gone to talk with Hardwick, but Hardwick would not open the fence.

Alspaugh also said in the report that his bumper had become jammed in the fence.

The sheriff's office charged Alspaugh on Nov. 20 with felony criminal mischief, saying he caused $1,600 in damage. Alspaugh in December entered a written plea of not guilty, online records show.

Before the department opened a lengthier investigation, Alspaugh had been reprimanded over the incident with the fence, but had no other serious discipline on his record.

He and two other officers received an award in 2004 after they pulled a motorist from a burning Jeep Cherokee in Ybor City, records show.


Seven McKeesport Officers Suspended for Pay Scam

Seven McKeesport police officers suspended after city officials said they bilked the city of unearned overtime pay included two lieutenants and all four members of the department's narcotics unit. Two weeks ago, after Chief Joe Pero said he discovered that the officers were billing the city for court appearances they never made, the seven were suspended without pay. Officials declined to identify the officers involved, but sources familiar with the investigation said the group suspended included the lieutnenant and three detectives who constituted the narcotics unit, in addition to another detective, another lieutenant and a patrolman. All were reassigned. The four in the narcotics squad also were members of the District Attorney's Narcotics Enforcement Team, a county-wide task force that includes members of local police departments and investigators from the district attorney's office. Mike Manko, a spokesman for the district attorney's office, confirmed that some of the suspended officers had connections to DANET. "While we don't anticipate any problems with cases they have been on, we will be reviewing all of those cases to make sure there are no problems," he said in an e-mail.

Last week, the Allegheny County district attorney's office recommended that McKeesport audit cases involving the men going back to January 2008, to make sure all incidents of misappropriation are caught. Mayor Jim Brewster said last week that he had elected to use a private firm for the audit. Meanwhile, some public and elected officials expressed frustration that they were kept out of the loop of what was going on in the department. A few said they learned of the situation from media reports or when they were contacted by reporters. "I think that's poor communication flow, not keeping your council informed," said Councilman Paul Shelly Jr. "I wish the entire council and the [city] controller [Ray Malinchak] had been kept abreast as soon ... as the chief thought he had found something." Mr. Shelly was hesitant to comment further because he said he didn't know enough about what had happened. But he said he was pleased that the chief and the mayor moved quickly to rectify the situation. On Tuesday, Mr. Shelly sent a letter to council members and other city officials requesting a special meeting to discuss the issue. He said he hoped he would learn more then.

Mr. Malinchak said he had received no correspondence from the mayor or the police chief regarding the situation, and was highly skeptical of the mayor's claim that the city had not lost any money in the scheme. Last week, Mayor Brewster said the city was able to recover the money paid in unearned overtime because the men were suspended without pay. Mr. Malinchak said he wanted evidence that the officers actually paid the money back, and that suspending them without pay was not punishment enough. "If someone down at the city thinks they have the authority ... to negotiate another settlement, then I have a problem with that," he said. Councilman Dale McCall said he thought it was proper that the mayor and the chief handled the situation without council's oversight, noting that the police department is officially overseen by the mayor. "I give them a lot of credit for taking the bull by the horns and taking care of that," he said. Ultimately, he said that he trusted Mayor Brewster and Chief Pero to handle the situation wisely.

Deputy Chris Johansen Arrested for Domestic Violence

Dallas County deputy sheriff Chris Johansen was arrested Saturday, March 14, and charged with OWI, first offense, as well as open container and failure to maintain control.

Johansen, 43, of rural Dallas Center was already being sought by fellow law enforcement regarding a domestic altercation earlier in the week. His arrested occurred only a short distance from his home.

An initial investigation was conducted by the Dallas County Sheriff's Department, and was then handed over to the Iowa Division of Criminal Investigation. The drunk driving, open container and traffic offenses were filed by the Sheriff's Department.

Johansen appeared in Dallas County District Court Sunday on those charges, and was released to await trial by a magistrate.

Sheriff Chad Leonard was out of state on a planned family vacation when the alleged incidents leading to Johansen's arrest occurred. He was not able to comment on the case; phone calls seeking comment from the DCI were not returned.

Leonard said Johansen has been placed on paid administrative leave pending the DCI's investigation.