CARS HOMES JOBS

Cop case probed for collusion

Chief wants to know why supervisors didn’t notice AWOL officer’s absences

Thursday, February 19, 2009
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Police car No. 10 is seen parked at 4:45 a.m. on Feb. 3 on Sir Benjamin Way in Schenectady (photo provided). Dwayne Johnson is pictured the day he joined the Schenectady Police Department on Jan. 25, 2001.
Police car No. 10 is seen parked at 4:45 a.m. on Feb. 3 on Sir Benjamin Way in Schenectady (photo provided). Dwayne Johnson is pictured the day he joined the Schenectady Police Department on Jan. 25, 2001.

— Police Chief Mark Chaires is investigating his department’s supervisors to determine whether they conspired to protect officers who go AWOL during their shifts.

The investigation began after The Daily Gazette notified the police that one officer was spending three or more hours in an apartment when he was supposed to be on patrol.

Police used a GPS unit to determine that officer Dwayne Johnson, an eight-year veteran of the department, skipped about 30 hours of work over the past three months.

The question now is why no one noticed his absence.

“How can a police officer who’s supposed to be on duty fall off the face of the earth and nobody knows about it?” said Mayor Brian U. Stratton. “Where are the supervisors?”

Public Safety Commissioner Wayne Bennett said the department is investigating the sergeants and lieutenants who were on duty during Johnson’s absences. He added that he doesn’t see how Johnson got away with leaving work for hours every week without the collusion of his supervisors.

“I simply don’t know at this point … but I think it almost suggests there is a conspiracy here and I think that should go to the district attorney for review,” Bennett said.

If supervisors did not conspire to let Johnson leave work early, they may not be off the hook. The other option is that supervisors simply didn’t do their job.

“That’s not acceptable either,” Bennett said.

Meanwhile, Bennett must also decide how to discipline Johnson.

Corporation Counsel L. John Van Norden said Johnson will likely be required to pay the city back for the 30 hours he spent in an apartment while he was supposed to be patrolling the city.

That will cost Johnson less than $1,000 — which might be viewed as a relatively insignificant amount for the officer who nearly tripled his salary by working overtime last year.

Bennett said Johnson may not just get a fine. The officer also could be charged with filing a false instrument for signing an inaccurate pay card.

“There could be a lot of charges on the administrative end,” Bennett said.

The mayor wants stiff penalties, too.

“I wouldn’t rule out charges, including criminal charges,” Stratton said on Wednesday. “It is, after all, a theft of time. We need to look at this in the most serious light.”

The reaction has been far more severe than it was last summer when The Daily Gazette reported that officer Thomas Disbrow spent time in a bowling alley in Scotia when he was supposed to be working.

Disbrow paid the city back for the hours he spent at the bowling alley. The city also installed GPS units in the patrol cars after that incident but said the change had nothing to do with Disbrow’s actions. No changes were made to supervisory policies.

This time, Chief Chaires instituted two policies. On Tuesday he told supervisors they must print out the GPS reports each day to verify their officers’ whereabouts during their shifts. On Wednesday, he said supervisors on the overnight shift must check in with every officer every 15 minutes. That policy had been in place years ago, Bennett said; he did not know when or why it was discontinued.

Dispatchers have also been told to watch the GPS screen, which shows the real-time location of each car. If they see any car stationary for more than 15 minutes, they must notify the sergeant on duty.

Stratton said the department is taking the incident more seriously this time because officials thought they had solved the problem by installing GPS units.

“It’s probably more embarrassing because, after the bowling, we went ahead and bought the GPS,” Stratton said. “And now it turns out the technology is not even being used.”

Bennett said the incident is also considered more serious because Johnson was not just any officer. He made more money last year than any other city employee, working double shifts nearly every day. He made $168,921 by working an average of 75 hours a week last year. So far this year he has averaged 70 hours per week, according to payroll records.

The apartment he has been visiting is not his family’s home. He lives with his wife and four daughters in the neighborhood of Central Park.

Apparently installing GPS units did not have any deterrent effect — Johnson started visiting an apartment at the corner of Queen Philomena Boulevard and Sir Benjamin Way just as the GPS units were activated in November.

The officer was observed by a Daily Gazette reporter and other witnesses as he entered and stayed in an apartment on five Tuesdays in a row this year.

 
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comments

February 19, 2009
5:43 a.m.
bigjohnsr1965 says...

This is a regular thing in other towns, growing up I saw alot of times when police officers did the same thing. I had a medical emergency, and a cop who was my neighbor, got me aid and brought my mother to the location, I thank god he did, or I might be dead. Whats new this happens all the time in other cities?, is it just because its schenectady?

February 19, 2009
6:17 a.m.
schdy says...

Good to hear you got the aid you needed.

We have a high crime rate. We need to be proactive and not reactive. Patrolling for drunk drivers and burglars and drug dealing and prostitution. Can't go after these types siting in an apartment.

February 19, 2009
6:25 a.m.
Rictator says...

Gee I don't want to plow new intellectual ground here but when my kindergarten teacher caught me misusing toys ... I couldn't play with them any longer. Maybe we could take this officer off the overtime list, just to start. Again just thinkin' out loud but if a guy is able to triple his income with overtime, don't ya think maybe it just might be more fiscally responsible to hire another officer. And finally, good detective work there Chief Chaires who would expect the officer's supervisors to actually know where he is its not like the taxpayers shovelled out 22 thousand dollars per GPS unit for just that purpose ... oh that's right they did. Mayor Stratton maybe a few less pony rides and a little closer attention to whats happening. All of you sought and got the jobs you have push away from the buffet and just do your jobs.

February 19, 2009
7:21 a.m.
Warm says...

Now you are going to see a group that always complains that people won't help in investigations, do everything possible to hide the facts and skirt the truth. You are going to see the Blue Wall of Silence. Ask for statement and hear talk to my union lawyer!

None of them will remember anything, no one will come forward and in the end we will be reading the same story with a date 5 years in the future.

I bet what we will see are more patrol cars driving around. Not that they will actually be fighting crime, but the will at least be moving. Maybe we will get lucky and once they start pretending to work, they might actually accidentally make arrests.

As for the Gazette, do they know the name of the person he was seeing?

February 19, 2009
8:10 a.m.
mrbilljr says...

Suggestion. Disband the police department, start over with a new contract, new officers(still keep the good ones on), save the city money and maybe stop the corrption that this department has been doing for about 20 years or more. When is enough enough? Nobody seems to be able to control them, a few give everyone a bad name, If an officer is found guilty of a crime, get rid of him, hire someone new and start over.

February 19, 2009
8:12 a.m.
resident says...

Look, Its all very simple, No one was doing their jobs, not the Police on the job, not the Supervisors, not the Police Chief, not the Public Safety Commissioner, Not the Mayor...... Hold someone accountable, Maybe all of the above.....Its like no one knows the meaning of Supervision, responsibility, accountability, credability, honesty,
intergrity, etc, etc..... When will it change????
It starts with the Mayor, When will he become involved, When will he show accountability, He runs the city, he places responsibility with the Chief of Police and the Safety Commissioner, It after all of the abuses of the Police Department it has been shown it is failing, It's time to remove someone Like the Safety Commissioner.........

February 19, 2009
8:45 a.m.
wmarincic says...

dranon, you can bury that old ax as you have ground it to death here in the last six months.

Warm, you have know idea of how hard these officers work each day so until you walk a mile in their shoes, put a sock in it.

Resident, you are right, it start's with the Mayor who never has nor never will support the Police Dept. instead they hire 5 going on 6 chiefs to run the department and when something happens they all blame the officer. "A fish stinks from the head" and that would be Stratton.....

February 19, 2009
8:50 a.m.
Warm says...

Nothing will happen and we all know it. The police will lawyer up. The elected officials will be distracted by some other shiny object and every thing will just roll on. Things never change.

You have to admit it is a novel approach to investigating a possible crime, let the subjects of the crime run the investigation. I wonder how long it is before we start using this model with drug dealers, murders and thieves?

Every second grader can tell you what parts of the city are where the crimes are, maybe we need to hire smarter police.

February 19, 2009
8:56 a.m.
davidgiacalone says...

NYC criminal defense lawyer Scott Greenfield covers this story this morning at his popular weblog, Simple Justice. See "Even cops need some sleep," at

http://blog.simplejustice.us/2009/02/19/...

After noting that the Chief asks, "how dumb can you get?", Scott points out that "neither Chief Chaires nor anybody else on the force thinks that somebody ought to take the occasional gander at their top earner, the big money man, to make sure they are getting their money's worth?" Scott then muses: "How dumb? Not as dumb as you, Chief."

He concludes: "But don't fear that Johnson will go unpunished. My bet is that his wife will have a few questions about what he was doing in that apartment every Tuesday morning."

February 19, 2009
9:02 a.m.
wmarincic says...

Warm, as I stated yesterday. Most Police Officers in Sch'dy have a Bachelors degree with many having Masters Degrees or working toward them. Let's put the blame where it belongs. The Chief's.

February 19, 2009
9:06 a.m.
summer says...

The truth of the matter is know one knows if his supervisors allowed him too do this. Lets face it he was gone for four hrs.If his supervisor allowed him too do this did he really do anything wrong. come on. I really dont see how a police officer could not have contact with anyone for four hrs and no red flags went up.hey maybe when he went in the house he used his radio, but still that would be a bit odd in the middle of winter for a police officer to be out of his car for four hrs and know red flags go up. how much of this is really the police officers fault. how many of us have been told by our boss we could take a break that was not part of the norm. How many of us would do the same thing if our supervisors allowed us too. I dont know what happen or how it all went down or came about, but one thing I do know is office johnson is not a stupid person. I really do think he did what he was allowed too do.

February 19, 2009
9:24 a.m.

Disband the Schenectady Police Department. Bring in the New York State Troopers for a year while the department is rebuild from the ground up.

February 19, 2009
9:40 a.m.
wmarincic says...

summer, Excellent point, if his supervisors knew what he was doing I dont see how they can charge him. As a Manager on many occasions I gave time off with pay to someone who had been doing an exceptional job, without having to go through the channels. Should they fire that person or myself?

February 19, 2009
9:49 a.m.
laxman says...

I wish someone at the Gazette would get their hands on the GPS reports - I bet that would be real interesing!

By the way there is a difference between know and no, they are not interchangeable.

February 19, 2009
9:58 a.m.
Warm says...

I can still remember back all the way to the late 70's watching our patrol officer make his "weekly stop". My boss ran a few games in the back room of the bar and by some strange reason the Schenectady Police could never seem to figure it out. Come on you all know the place I am talking about. Wonder why? The force has been corrupt back as long as anyone in Schenectady can remember.

What I see from these stories are a bunch of highly educated employees that work harder then any other person on the face of the earth, with no need for supervision and that they are just misunderstood. That they would solve more crimes but they are really tired and if their boss was just a little bit more supportive they would excel.

Imagine if you were reading the same story about a bunch of guys with PHd's running a Nuclear Reactor? You would be calling in the Feds, but in Schenectady's case they are probably already here!

February 19, 2009
10:15 a.m.
wmarincic says...

He who is without sin cast the first stone!

February 19, 2009
10:32 a.m.
Warm says...

I am sure that Officer Johnson lets every criminal go free because he is with sin. In the world of crime that really doesn't work. I prefer "an eye for an eye" and "give unto Caesar what belongs to Caesar".

I know in the Schenectady police force the only crime he has committed is getting caught.

February 19, 2009
10:44 a.m.
wmarincic says...

Give it a break worm, we get it, you don't like the Police. I'm sorry you got caught, get over it.

February 19, 2009
3:23 p.m.
casino says...
(This comment was removed by the site staff.)
February 20, 2009
5:16 p.m.
szamboti says...

Wow Vmarincic, you're the one who needs to give it a break! Is there anything that any one of these cops do wrong that you won't find an excuse for or someone else to blame it on?! "if his supervisors knew what he was doing I dont see how they can charge him" What kind of logic is that!? We charge him and then we charge anyone who was in cahoots with him! These people are not above the law just because they're members of the police department! "As a Manager on many occasions I gave time off with pay to someone who had been doing an exceptional job, without having to go through the channels. Should they fire that person or myself?" By giving away your bosses money without approval, you stole from them! If the employee given the time off knew that you were not authorized to give away the paid free time, then they were also stealing! Don't you get it!? In one of your retorts to Warm you brought up the high education level of of "many" on the force. What's that got to do with being "stupid" and breaking the law and/or violating department rules and regulations?! I'm sure that the majority of us writing these comments realizes that the police officers out there are hard working, educated guys that are given a bad name by the bad apples that keep "falling off the tree" here in Schenectady. Wherever there are people there will be those who don't want to pull their weight, who use the system to steal from their employers and in this case from the taxpayers also. I work in construction, and when we find someone in my company that doesn't do the work they're paid for, that steal from us, we get rid of them! Why should it be any different in the police department? In this case, if the supervisors let this go on and had knowledge of it, they also stole, plain and simple. In this case, the city has a lot invested in this officer. If this guy is as dedicated and as fine an officer as I hear folks say he is, well then lets do as they do in the military. Give him just punishment for his transgressions and then let's see how he does from there. And the same goes for his supervisors or anyone else that had knowledge of these incidents. Finally, let's place the blame where it belongs, instead of clouding the issue with talk of the Mayor being at fault, or anyone else that didn't have direct knowledge of this stuff going on.

February 20, 2009
5:24 p.m.
szamboti says...

Please excuse the incorrect spelling of your name, Wmarincic. My proofreading skills certainly leave something to be desired...

February 21, 2009
8:39 p.m.
wmarincic says...

szamboti, maybe you should pay attention to what you read. I said I have given time off without HAVING TO GO THROUGH THE CHANNEL'S, meaning I have the authority to do it... If his immediate supervisor gave him permission to take the time off then he is not at fault unless HE KNEW that his immediete supervisor did NOT have the authority in which case he is guilty. I do not condone as I have said many times any proven illegal action by anyone including the Police. I just see time and time again a rush to judgement where ALL of the Police are guilty until proven innocent and by then it is too late. As the saying goes "You can't unring a bell" And yes it starts with the Mayor as he is in charge of the Police Dept. Stratton has never supported the Police and he never will, just like he said in his phone interview from DC last night, we should serve Obama or something down those lines, I thought Polititicians served the people but Stratton does not see it that way. And finally the reason I bring up education is because of so many post's accusing them of being uneducated criminals.

February 21, 2009
9:19 p.m.
szamboti says...

Wmarincic,

I did pay very close attention to what I read. You stated "if his supervisors knew what he was doing I dont see how they can charge him". You then went on to say "As a Manager on many occasions I gave time off with pay to someone who had been doing an exceptional job, without having to go through the channels. Should they fire that person or myself?"

You inferred that even though Mr. Johnson might have done wrong, if his supervisor knew about it, anything that he might have done wrong was really sort of ok or at least not prosecutable because it was condoned and was now acually the supervisor's wrongdoing, not his. You then compared your actions as a supervisor and by asking "should they fire that person or myself", you inferred that there was something inherently wrong with your situation as well.

If you had indeed been given the ad hoc powers to reward those below you who gave exceptional performance on the job, I fail to see why you would be comparing your "authorized" largeness with that of Mr. Johnson's supervisor, who would obviously not have been authorized to let him spend "several" hours off his beat and so would have been as culpable as Mr. Johnson if he was aware of his supposed transgressions and did nothing.

Perhaps you might want to make another comparison. ;)

February 21, 2009
9:26 p.m.
szamboti says...

Wmarincic,

I do however agree wholeheartedly that people often rush to judgment. This incident has just come to light and folks are ready to tar and feather him and the whole department before the facts have been uncovered.

February 22, 2009
12:30 p.m.
wmarincic says...

Finally we agree, thank you szamboti

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