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List of Schenectady cops facing firing up to 6

Thursday, March 19, 2009
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— A sixth officer has been added to the mayor’s list of those facing termination.

Dwayne Johnson, who regularly left his patrol to spend hours in an apartment, may be fired, Mayor Brian U. Stratton said.

Five other officers are facing that punishment as well: three officers accused of driving while intoxicated in off-duty incidents and two officers accused of beating a drunken man during an arrest.

Stratton said he wants the punishment to come quickly and fall as heavily as possible to send a message that “unprofessional” behavior will no longer be tolerated.

“We want to be swift and deliberate and clear the decks,” he said. “I think it’s important for us, at this critical time, to move as swiftly as we can. The faster we come to a resolution, the more the public knows we’re serious and the more their fellow officers know.”

But with that punishment comes quite a price tag. The months of work to research each case and then argue them in court will cost the city $185 per hour.

That’s how much the city will pay a private law firm to prosecute each officer. The Albany firm of Girvin & Ferlazzo has been hired to fight for the highest possible punishment in each case. James Girvin, a specialist in public sector employment law and labor relations, will run the prosecution.

Public Safety Commissioner Wayne Bennett will judge each case, with the help of the city attorneys. They will provide legal advice.

The officers involved will be defended by their own attorneys.

Research for the first case alone will take a month, Corporation Counsel L. John Van Norden said. The hearings themselves are expected to take two days each.

At an hourly rate, the legal costs will be tremendous, Stratton acknowledged.

“But we can’t afford not to,” he said. “That’s the price we continue to pay.”

Until the hearings, the city must also pay each suspended officer’s salary as well as other officers’ overtime to cover the disgraced officers’ shifts.

The city does get a slight break in the first 30 days of a suspension — it doesn’t have to pay suspended officers during that time. But disciplinary hearings are rarely convened within that time limit. Of the six officers, only Johnson is still on unpaid suspension.

Stratton said the cost to discipline the officers will put pressure on the 2009 budget, which was trimmed of $1 million to avoid a tax increase this year. The City Council trimmed the budget over the mayor’s warnings that unexpected costs could arise.

“There’s always unexpected things,” he said Wednesday. “That’s money we could have otherwise had to fund things like additional legal services.”

But he said the surplus from the 2008 budget — the amount of which has not yet been announced — could rescue this year’s spending plan.

And even if it doesn’t, Stratton said, the city must find ways to pay for the hearings.

“We have to afford it,” he said.

The six officers who may be fired are Darren Lawrence, accused of driving drunk, crashing in Colonie, fleeing the scene and beating a friend to keep him from reporting the incident; Michael Brown, accused of driving drunk, hitting another car, fleeing the scene and refusing a Breathalyzer test; John Lewis, accused of DWI, threatening to kill his ex-wife and numerous other charges; Gregory Hafensteiner and Andrew Karaskiewicz, accused of beating a drunken man during an arrest; and Dwayne Johnson, accused of leaving work four hours early on numerous Tuesdays.

 
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March 19, 2009
9:09 a.m.
wmarincic says...

It was my understanding that Gregory Hafensteiner and Andrew Karaskiewicz were cleared by the Grand Jury in this case of an accused rapist and felon accusing the Police of assualt. As we see over and over, when all else fails for a criminal, they accuse the cops that arrest them. It seems to work for them in Schenectady because rather than looking at the career criminal they are looking at those that uphold the law.

I wonder if anyone has ever watched the TV show COPS and seen what officers have to do to subdue a criminal that is resisting arrest? Maybe if the city had tasers they would not be put in these situations.

March 19, 2009
9:24 a.m.
No_name says...

I agree with with the above comment - why are these two officers up to the block, they were cleared BY A COURT! Is the department just trying to make examples - fire the drunk drivers, fire the officer that STOLE time from the city (in turn $ from the tax payers)

March 19, 2009
9:46 a.m.

I absolutely agree with the comments above. It is time for these two guys to be separated from the bunch. Put them back to work for goodness sakes and stop wasting the tax payers money. Deal with the others separately.

March 19, 2009
10:17 a.m.
tc says...

Unfortunately there is a witch hunt against the SPD all caused by public perception and driven by the one sided media. There are nearly 200 officers performing extremely tough work while doing it all under the microscope of the public's eye. You take any slice of society w/o working under these conditions and the crime rate would be higher in many cases. And with the mayor and useless Bennett never giving credit when it's due but jumping to the microphone when some (few)do wrong, it only makes the problem worse. I would suggest the gazette dedicate a section of the paper to the men and women do outstanding work like preventing rapes, solving crimes, cleaning the street of dangerous criminals all the while keeping us safe. I won't hold my breath...

March 19, 2009
11:07 a.m.
wmarincic says...
(This comment was removed by the site staff.)
March 19, 2009
12:09 p.m.
wmarincic says...

Dranon,

You continue to disparage me so let me tell you something. I believe in and live my life as John Kennedy said in his great speech " Ask not what your country can do for you, but ask what you can do for your country".

I was a volunteer Director for more than 5 years at a Rensselaer Food Pantry and Community Meal Program, I was also a youth leader, I volunteered as a women and children advocate for disavantaged women for 4 years, I started a youth group in Schenectady for disadvantaged and high risk youth that is still going strong, I chair a safety committee for the Vale Neighborhood association and I'm as active as I can be in my community. I also have done and do this while working 50 hours per week as a manager in a local business. I'm not blowing my own horn here, I'm just tired of the remarks. So until you step to the plate and be a solution to the problems that Schenectady faces, you are part of the problem.

March 19, 2009
1:28 p.m.

Why was the first comment deleted? It was by warmarnic stating that 2 officers should have been reinstated - Hafenstiener and Karaskiewicz since the jury acquited them. It doesn't even state that a member of the paper deleted it. What is going ON?!

March 19, 2009
3:31 p.m.
yourfinished23 says...

The mayor is shooting from the hip trying to bolster his personal standing with the community. Disbanding the police ..are you nuts. Get rid of the few that caused the issues in the first place and work with what is left. Yes examples need to be made but is the mayor and the city council that clueless. If any large company found this type activity among the ranks they would simply just fire them not shut down the whole company for a few. Wake up. The mayor and the city council still haven't addressed the school system and the corruption there. This issue with the police should not overshadow the fact that Raucci, Ely and the clan are terrorists. The police officers stole money from taxpayers and drove drunk not harassed and bombed people's homes and families. The officer that allegedly beat a man up should be terminated. The mayor and city council needs to look at the whole city not just the police. Corruption is ramped in Schenectady. Give Chief Chairs a chance to correct and discipline his new appointment.
Why not take a close look at what our mayor is doing as well. Lets kick everyone out and start over. How many times will the mayor try to steal money from taxpayers to give himself raises? This is not the economy to be just thinking of yourself. How many people will come forward to have Ely and that group investigated. What a joke that the investigation is left to Ely and the crew. Now focus in again on the police and beat them up for infractions that should be handled as terminations and then look at the mayor's office and city council as well as the school system and weigh which is the worse of the evils. The mayor better step back and rethink this accusation and course of action. He may be next under the microscope if he doesn't get a handle on this school system and sweep that clean as well.

March 19, 2009
4:29 p.m.
Ramrod says...

I agree with the dismissal of 4 out of 6 officers. The 2 that were aquitted should be back on the streets. One question, if an officer is demoted for drinking and driving than why are others getting fired. Probably because the left the scene. I have a suggestion for Mayor Stratton and Bufort T Justice (Mr. Bennett). I work in sales and my manager makes it a point to ride with me twice a month to see what's happening first hand in the field. Maybe you have already, but I suggest you & Mr. bennett get in the car with these officers and see what goes on each night before bashing them in the media. Maybe you will see the lack of respect the community has for officers due to our Mayor supporting the cause. Before you judge, see first hand and imagine yourself dealing with this night after night with no support. I agree, there are some bad apples but before it's too late show some support to the ones who can be saved and maybe you'll have a bit of empathy for what they do. Try it, it worked for my boss.. Twice a Month......

March 19, 2009
6:50 p.m.

Ive known Greg Hafensteiner for 18 years and hes been nothing but a respectful, stand up guy. The police department would be making a big mistake firing him. He is a great character guy and is an asset to the department!

March 19, 2009
6:54 p.m.
yourfinished23 says...

Thank God there is someone else who sees the error in this. I also work for a company that does ride alone with me. Mr. Bennet should empathize with the police, He was one at one time or so I have been told. Walk a mile as it goes. Stratton is on over kill. His advisors if he has any are way off the mark with the extreme. Get a grip and give all the other police officers a chance to make their unit work. How many total police officers are there? And 6 or 7 are what governed the future of the Schenectady police. Stratton you need a reality check. What little you have done, has made any impact for taxes, employment, or security in the city. It seems as though you are more interested in how much you want for a raise. Maybe the taxpayers need to look at your office a little closer come election time. I know I will. These men and women that serve this city, not only the police but anyone that has to be exposed to the hazardous conditions in these neighborhoods, should be commended for getting up every morning to perform their duties. Instead of shaking your fist at these people, shake their hand instead. You're off the mark here boys. Get your heads out of each others sphincters and make some rational and grownup decisions for a change or you may be facing a change of your own soon enough come election time. Fire the bad apples. Show the city that you can make intelligent decisions. Get off the police departments back and go after the real criminals in the city. One has already been arrested, now go get the rest and do something right for a change.

March 19, 2009
7:26 p.m.
wolfden says...

Oh my goodness!! I hope the witch hunters get everything they deserve. Of course the city cant afford a legal hearing, just look around and see what the city has to offer the citizens now. Hopefully, the city will go bankrupt and the police department will close. If stating a story without the FACTS for an officer in schenectady can get this much publicity, then i should be able to tell stories on anyone, right??? It's so sad to see how quickly you can say the word fire, yet dont even have a clue on what is going on. THE GRASS IS NOT ALWAYS GREENER ON THE OTHER SIDE POINT BLANK: ANY LAW ENFORCEMENT AGENCY WILL ALWAYS HAVE ISSUES BECAUSE THEY ARE HUMAN BEINGS JUST LIKE THE REPORTERS AND THE POLITICIANS. YOU DONT FIX SOMETHING FROM THE OUTSIDE IN, IT IS USUALLY FIXED FROM THE INSIDE OUT. YOU GUYS WILL LEARN, OH YEAH YOU WILL LEARN. MONEY SPEAKS LOUDER THAN WORDS. AND THE GREATEST PART IN ALL OF THIS IS: REGARDLESS OF WHO YOU PUT IN PLACE TO PATROL THE CITY OF SCHENECTADY, THEY TOO WILL HAVE THEIR ISSUES. AND OUT OF ALL OF THE ISSUES ONE WILL DEFINITELY BE ALCOHOL AND PHYSICAL ABUSE.

WHEN IS THE MAYOR GOING TO START HELPING THESE OFFICERS, INSTEAD OF A "I HAVE TO SATISFY THE PEOPLE FIRST, THEN THE OFFICER"

SCHENECTADY OFFICERS ARE ALWAYS STRIVING TO DO THEIR BEST!!! EVEN DURING THIS WITCH HUNT.

March 19, 2009
9:31 p.m.
Melizabeth says...

I think the mayor and commissioner are ignoring the larger issue at hand and that is the process of addressing the overwhelming problem of crime in this city. I have yet to hear or see anything of substance from either one to address the crime problem, it seems that much time,money and energy is being focused on prosecuting 6 police officers when rapists, burglars, and other criminals are free to roam in much larger numbers. And as for the abolishment of the department, it's a moot issue and just another distraction.NO ONE WANTS THE JOB OF TAKING OVER THE SCHDY PD. Does anyone seriously believe that the sheriff's dept or state police want to be responsible for handling crime in the city? I don't see the sheriff or superintendent of the state police jumping at the chance to take over the job.

March 20, 2009
9:35 a.m.
yourfinished23 says...

You're both right. Again, discipline the officers as any company would. If it is deemed for those officers that committed the offenses are to be terminated, be sure that the evidence is irrefutable. Give them time off without pay, community work release program or any other disciplinary measure that suits the offence. Like the above statement said, who out of all the law enforcement agencies want to take on the added responsibilities of a city police dept. They all have too much to do as it is. There are so many other police officers that are decent law abiding and community minded within the SPD now. These few should not determine the future of this cities PD. Again, the mayor and the commissioner need to collect their thoughts on this and stop making rash statements. This situation does not require MARSHAL LAW. Holy cow mayor are you trying to start riots? It would appear so. If you were using that statement to scare the other police officers into a straight and narrow, all you succeeded to do is make your office look more incompetent. The commissioner needs to bring himself back to the roots and start working with the SPD and not against them. Mr. Bennet, you started off well but you are ending it in a poor light. The Schenectady residents are not only fed up with these few police officers but plainly fed up with the city council and the mayor as well. As I had stated prior, there are more pressing issues in the school system than what a few miss guided cops have done. Three suicides within a short time frame, Ely basically telling school principals to not report or discipline violent behavior in their schools to keep the press at bay and cool down the issue with Raucci. Come on people open your eyes. No mention from the mayor's office of the action that needs to be taken at the school district level. Who is in bed with whom here? If Marshal Law is required I feel it should be pointed at the city school district as well. This is out of hand and the mayor is responsible for all of this. He is the CEO of Schenectady and should have a firm handle on operations within the city. Maybe he should be under Marshal Law as well.

March 20, 2009
10:05 a.m.
jhitlall says...

I think if the mayor is going to let 4 go out of 6 the amount of money that will have to come out of our taxes to pay for overtime is crazy. They should just close the entire police dept. and bring in the national guards. The city of Schenectady should be investigated by the federal govt. the mayor and his staff is not doing a job for the city but they are doing a job to collect there salary every week. The police department has lots of corruption because if it was not corrupt there would only be one officer facing discipline not 6 or 4. I had police officers told me that it’s all the mayor doing . They have to go by the mayor and not by the police commissioner that the problem and it's a very big one.

March 20, 2009
10:09 a.m.
jhitlall says...

NO ONE WANT'S THE JOB OF RUNNING THE SCPD BECAUSE OF THE MAYOR.

March 20, 2009
10:53 a.m.
wolfden says...

LOVE THE COMMENTS!!! CAN SOMEONE PLEASE TELL ME WHAT AGENCY/CORPORATION/COMPANY THAT DOES NOT HAVE CORRUPTION????? LOOK AT AIG, BONUSES! WHAT DOES A BONUS MEAN TO ANYONE IN THE CITY OF SCHENECTADY? OH AND BY THE WAY, JUST BECAUSE YOU DONT HEAR ABOUT OTHER COUNTIES/CITIES OFFICERS IN THE NEWSPAPER IT DOES NOT MAKE THEM PERFECT. THEY JUST KNOW HOW TO KEEP IT INTERNAL. EVERYONE HAS THEIR PROBLEMS. SCHENECTADY IS THE ONLY PLACE I HAVE EVER SEEN WHERE THE REPORTERS DICTATE THE DEPARTMENT, AND DEMAND ACTION RIGHT NOW. LIKE I SAID BEFORE "AMAZING"

DAILY GAZETTE FOR MAYOR :)

March 20, 2009
1:23 p.m.
wmarincic says...

Your right wolfden, look at the board of ed. they refuse to release any info on anyone because they dont want them to be tried in the paper. I dont know of any Police Agency that releases names of any ongoing internal investigations other than Schenectady. When the Albany officer was fired last week the first we heard about it was when he was fired. That stooge Stratton should learn from that, and keep his mouth shut.

March 20, 2009
3:47 p.m.
Ramrod says...

Great Comments. I especially love the one regarding the teen suicides in scht'y schools and the mayors reaction to it. Maybe I missed it, but I haven't seen too many comments from him regarding this issue. Instead he's too focused on the PD. Frankly, if it true about the cops roughing up a career DWI / Criminal, so be it. I'd rather the cops stop this frequent drunk and get him off the road before he hits my family in a drunking accident. Now, if they didn't stop him and he killed someone, to me, that's the bigger issue. Personally, I'm not saying they did anything wrong, but he definately deserved it. They did their job, got someone off the street who in time will end up harming an innocent victim. Focus on the important things Mr Mayor, kids in school killing themselves or 6 troubled cops out of 200. To me a teens life / school is more important than bashing the very people that are supposed to protect them. I guess there's not as much glory in dealing with the tough issues.. Maybe counseling for these trouble teens and cops may fix the problem. Who Knows.....

March 20, 2009
4:48 p.m.
wmarincic says...

Ramrod

Not only a career DWIr a career felon and accused rapist.

March 21, 2009
8:06 a.m.
yourfinished23 says...

Thank God there is someone else who sees the error in this. I also work for a company that does ride alone with me. Mr. Bennet should empathize with the police, He was one at one time or so I have been told. Walk a mile as it goes. Stratton is on over kill. His advisors if he has any are way off the mark with the extreme. Get a grip and give all the other police officers a chance to make their unit work. How many total police officers are there? And 6 or 7 are what governed the future of the Schenectady police. Stratton you need a reality check. Not much you have done has made any impact for taxes, employment, or security in the city. It seems as though you are more interested in how much you want for a raise for doing very little. Maybe the taxpayers need to look at your office a little closer come election time. I know I will. These men and women that serve this city not only the police but anyone that has to be exposed to the hazardous conditions in these neighborhoods should be commended for getting up every morning performing their duties. Instead of shaking your fist at these people, shake their hand instead. You're of the mark here boys. Get your heads out of each others sphincters and make some rational and grownup decisions for a change or you may be facing a change of your own soon enough come election time. Fire the bad apples. Show the city that you can make intelligent decisions for a change. Get off the police departments back and go after the real criminals in the city. One has already been arrested, now go get the rest and do something right for a change.

March 24, 2009
9:16 a.m.
whatshisname says...

The two officers accused of assault were cleared by a court already and should be back to work. The big problem with this is that anyone who is arrested can cry brutality and get the cops in trouble, even risking their job. That's BAD. You'll surely see more of that in the future now.

Two are facing firing for DWI, etc. As someone else here said, other officers were demoted for an offense like that. It really looks like someone is overreacting badly.

Remember the bus full of egg throwers? One of those has become an assistant chief who was involved in an vehicular incident and suspected of drinking. Apparently he used his authority and position to shield himself from investigation on the scene. But his name doesn't come up. How come? Special treatment?

And how come Mr. Bennett has NEVER had anything good to say about SPD or any officer EVER? There's something wrong with that picture.

March 24, 2009
11:16 a.m.
wmarincic says...

Let's not forget that there was also an FBI agent involved in that, maybe we should banish the FBI as the whole agency is now tarnished.

March 25, 2009
2:44 p.m.
yourfinished23 says...

Let's see, you want to go after the PD and disband the dept. leaving the city to the criminals. You want Bennet to step up and take a stand against the dept. he was supposed to be running in the first place. And now you want to bash an officer that has already been disciplined and corrected for his actions. I guess not enough by your standards. Why not dig up past officers dead and buried and prosecute them as well. Maybe we should look at your past and drag up all your faults and failings. How far back do you want to go? I never have seen a power plug on any police officer butt that tells me they are not human and can never make mistakes. I don't condone any activities that place others in danger. Is there preferential treatment? Who knows? I doubt if the judges and prosecutors found enough evidence to support claims of wrong doing. Also, you are now saying the DA's office the Judges and all the judicial system is corrupt. Man you are misinformed. And you are insulting to all those people that try to carry out proper law enforcement and the entire judicial system. Try to be a little more responsible with your comments next time. And ask your mommy if you can use the computer before responding to adult topics.

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