Rotterdam officials mum on internal police probe

Two officers have been on unpaid suspension

Wednesday, October 2, 2013
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— Town officials are being tight-lipped over the unpaid suspensions handed out to a pair of patrolmen last month and an ongoing internal investigation at the police department.

Chief James Hamilton refused to identify the suspended officers and declined to discuss what prompted their discipline following an incident in late August. He said one officer was suspended in early September and the other several weeks later, but he wouldn’t discuss the circumstances surrounding the suspensions.

“We demand our officers are held to the highest standard, and when they don’t act accordingly, we take action,” he said Tuesday.

Hamilton did acknowledge an ongoing internal investigation into the matter, but he declined to discuss any particulars of the probe. Town Supervisor Harry Buffardi acknowledged the internal investigation but referred all questions to Hamilton or Town Attorney Kate McGuirl.

In an email, McGuirl said state civil rights law precludes her from discussing the suspensions or the department’s ongoing internal investigation.

“The town is barred from discussing or releasing the personnel records of a police officer, including a notice of discipline,” she said.

A call to Mark Frodyma, the president of the Rotterdam Police Benevolent Association, was not returned Tuesday afternoon.

The suspensions came around the same time as when seven members of the department’s Emergency Response Team —more than half of the squad — abruptly resigned from the detail. Hamilton said the seven officers remain on the force but tendered their resignation from the team on Sept. 11.

Hamilton said the resignations are unrelated to the suspensions. He said several officers no longer wanted to continue the training commitment needed to remain part of the team, which is used for drug raids, hostage situations and other tactical responses.

“My understanding in speaking to some of them is that there was an unwillingness to commit to the level of training,” he said. “With the majority of those members, none of them indicated there was any link to the suspensions.”

The resignations do leave the future of the 12-member team established in 2004 in question. With only four officers and a paramedic supervisor now on the team, Hamilton said the department will now need to chose whether to enlist more members, keep a much smaller squad or disband it altogether.

Hamilton said team members are required to conduct eight hours of training each month. He said the team also requires a commitment from the town, which has to invest taxpayer dollars into funding equipment and training.

“There is a big commitment on the part of the town and the police department,” he said. “We’ve invested quite a bit in these officers.”

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