Quantcast

Arrest of two officers, high police earnings addressed by Norwalk Police Commission

Norwalk Police Commissioners, from left, Kelly Straniti, Fran Collier Clemmons and Mayor Harry Rilling, during Monday’s meeting on Zoom.

NORWALK, Conn. — The Norwalk Police Department has high standards, and that’s why the behavior of two officers was not ignored, Police Commissioner Fran Collier-Clemmons said Monday.

Mayor Harry Rilling and Commissioner Kelly Straniti also addressed the arrest of Officers Michael DiMeglio and Sara Laudano, without mentioning their names, during the Police Commission meeting, while fielding questions from two citizens about police overtime and extra duty pay.

“We were all shocked by the incident involving the officers who subsequently ended up getting arrested and being charged for what they did. We thought this was certainly a disgraceful act on their behalf. And they’re being dealt with in an appropriate way,” Rilling said.

The comments came before the release of an internal affairs investigation into allegations made by State Senate Majority Leader Bob Duff (D-25) and Duff’s sharply critical response.

DiMeglio, 38, and Laudano, 31, were arrested Jan. 4 and charged with second degree larceny and reckless endangerment. Laudano was also charged with risk of injury to a child.

Police say they were drinking while on duty Oct. 9 and pretending to respond to calls that were assigned to them. They were found in a hotel room early Oct. 10, still on duty, after Laudano’s patrol SUV was located based on information transmitted by its Automatic Vehicle Locating system (AVL), the affidavit states. DiMeglio’s car was also parked at the hotel, but the AVL was not functional.

“I had all confidence in the way the department handled this situation,” Rilling said. “This decision, this situation was not swept under the carpet, it was brought out to the public. And the department did what they had to do, but also what these officers did in no way shape or form reflects upon the Norwalk Police Department.”

“It’s so unfortunate that people love to jump to judgment and to cast a cloud over the whole department,” Straniti said. “… It’s an unfortunate incident. And, and again, it just goes to show how our department has dealt with it in such a professional manner, and to not let anything get, you know, left by the wayside or anything like that. So while it’s unfortunate that it’s happened, it’s again, it just makes it even more clear, you know, what a great job we have going on here on all levels.”

“Our police department could very easily ignore this for the time in which it happened,” Collier Clemmons said. “But because of the high standards that the Norwalk Police Department has, they addressed it. They investigated it like they would do any other violation by any other citizen, and came up with the results and do what was necessary, and are following protocol and procedure as they’ve been trained to do.”

Questions about high pay earned by police officers

DiMeglio and Laudano were both working long hours, racking up big paychecks by taking overtime shifts and extra duty assignments. DiMeglio earned $204,602 in 2020 and Laudano earned $116,014, according to City documents.

John Levin recently wrote to the Commission and said he found the reports of police pay to be “deeply disturbing.”

“{I}t is difficult to imagine how one NPD officer could earn $287,000 in a single year without being assigned an extraordinary quantity of hours of overtime and extra duty assignments,” Levin wrote.

As for Laudano and DiMeglio, Levin wrote, “What is the culture and work ethic for NPD officers like?  What kind of culture is suggested by the activities of two experienced NPD officers who would drink excessively while on duty, lie to supervisors about their work related activities and duty assignments, and engage in hanky-panky at a local hotel during their shift? How would you reasonably expect Norwalk residents and taxpayers to view this incident?”

He also asked if the Police Commission could be expanded to five members and perhaps the charter rewritten “to exempt a Mayor from this requirement if a conflict of interest exists in his or her serving in that role.”

Levin and a neighbor, Larry Losio, spoke to the Commission on Monday. Rilling allowed an unusual back and forth with a citizen making public comment.

Expanding the Police Commission would require charter change, Rilling said. Some years back, that was proposed but voters rejected it, he said.

“I don’t see any reason why that could not be considered. And I don’t know if there would be any valid reason as to why there could not be an increase,” Rilling said. “I will tell you that the this Commission is in close contact with the department virtually, if not every day, certainly weekly, and feel that the police chief and …the deputy chiefs have handled this unfortunate and horrible situation in a proper way.”

Losio asked about police earnings in the context of NPD culture and in the way Norwalk citizens perceive police. When police earnings equal two and a half to three times the average Connecticut income, “there’s the risk that in the minds of the public NPD might be viewed as, as, you know, a special class. And that could only serve to put additional distance between NPD and the citizen,” he said.

And, “it could lead, you know, officers thinking, also in terms of earnings, rather than on public service,” Losio said.

“There are restrictions in the contract that an officer cannot work any more than 16 hours in any 24-hour period. That’s the limit that was put in many, many years ago,” Rilling said.

He said that when he was police chief and saw officers working excessive hours, “I would check their sick time I would check their productivity. And I always found that the people that work long, hard hours, also had very, very few sick days, but also had impressive productivity in the performance of their duties.”

On Tuesday, Kulhawik responded to Levin’s email. Kulhawik said:

  • “Compensation levels are probably on par with Stamford Police, however, we do know that our Overtime per capita is lower than Stamford PD.
  • “About 25% of officers currently live in Norwalk but that fluctuates.
  • “Overtime and Extra Duty is allocated pursuant to the police contract and is done by seniority.
  • “There is a new contract in effect. The only change was to pay levels.”
  • The contract limits officers to 16 hours in a 24 hour period. It does not limit number of days worked etc..  Most officers who are the top earners work most days either for overtime or more likely Extra Duty and also work on the vacation days and off days etc… We have had a significant increase in the amount of extra duty available due to numerous construction projects like the Walk Bridge as well as the Covid Testing daily, Food Bank Giveaway each week, etc.”
  • “I am not aware of any officer being deemed unfit for duty last year due to working excessive hours.  Actually most of the high earners are also the officers who are very productive.”
  • “Supervisors generally don’t order an officer for extra duty unless it is a public safety issue.  We do order in officers for overtime such as during the demonstrations over the summer or when we are short in patrol and there are no volunteers. This is not very frequent.”
  • “All front line vehicles in the fleet are equipped with AVL {Automatic Vehicle Location}. We are in the process of upgrading the system as we found that it was not completely reliable.”
  • “Officers are not permitted by policy to consume alcohol during work or be under the influence when reporting for duty.”
  • “The 24 hours random drug test rule was negotiated many years ago into the contract. The new state law now mandates drug testing of each officer at least once every three years.”

 

 

Lauding officers

The Commission also recognized Officer Konstantine Arvanitakis as December’s Officer of the Month.

Arvanitakis stopped a vehicle Dec. 22 because “something about it bothered him,” there was no front plate and the driver was talking on a cell phone, Kulhawik said.

“One of our police dogs ended up locating over 40 grams of cocaine that was packaged for sale, and eight and a half grams of heroin, which also tested positive for fentanyl,” Kulhawik said. “And this was all due to just a gut feeling when he saw this vehicle and ended up with a nice arrest and removed a lot of narcotics from the streets.”

“He performed a routine stop that turned out to be anything but routine,” Rilling said. “And as a result of his diligence and pursuing his duties, he removed some drugs from the street that were packaged for sale, but one with the heroin having fentanyl in it could have resulted in people’s death.”

Officers Hector Delgado and Max Sixto were also recognized for collecting toys and distributing them through the holiday season, when the pandemic prevented the usual holiday party. They also purchased gift cards and handed them out to 150 families, Kulhawik said.

“It may have seemed like a miracle for those families, to receive those gift cards for Stew Leonard’s, to provide food for their families, and something that they could choose themselves,” Collier Clemmons said.

Straniti said, “It’s unfortunate that …there are some things that take away from the greatness of our department and I’m really glad that we take the time to recognize these officers for all they do on an everyday basis that doesn’t always get recognized.”

10 comments

Milly January 27, 2021 at 5:48 am

There should be a $ limit on how much overtime the officers can make – it is impossible to physically work 16 hour days all year long. And to say the officers who work the most overtime are the most productive – compared to what?

Collie January 27, 2021 at 8:42 am

They can work all those hours because most of the time they are either talking to each other or sleeping in there patrol cars. We all know that if we work on our job for 16hrs straight (doing actual work) their is no way the next day we are coming to work full of energy and super productive. The body doesn’t work that way, especially for a senior cop/person.

M Murray January 27, 2021 at 11:28 am

Persons with a strong drive will work long hours to make what they need, whether it is overtime at one job or with multiple jobs. If the officers have more limited overtime/extra work opportunities, they will simply work even more hours at less pay to make up the difference. This will be even more difficult, if not impossible for the department to monitor or regulars since it will be during off duty hours outside the scope of their control.

M Murray January 27, 2021 at 11:59 am

Let’s also remember that most officers work 5-2, 5-3 schedules because they rotate working weekends. This means that their regular shift has them working 10 out of every 15 days. If you count holidays and vacation, officers could average 45 overtime/extra work hours per week on their days off without taking any extra shifts during their regular work week. That would average 85 hours per week without any additional overtime during their traditional shift

Norwalker January 27, 2021 at 12:21 pm

Milly, unless the city increase the number of officers in the department it is nearly impossible to restrict the amount of overtime.

Norwalk resident January 27, 2021 at 10:43 pm

It is clear that there is widespread abuse of the system. How can you cover your shift, be punched in at a dirt job, and community police all at once? Ask Officer Oullette. He beat Tom Mattera by 40k last year and smashed the high dollar amount ever. The question isnt the final dollar figure but the amount of corruption going on. Why does no one investigate this other than Nancy On Norwalk. The paperwork just wont jive. It is actually going to ruin it for the cops that work hard and do the right thing. Of course the mayor takes the high road on this. He was a cop and so was his son. And the beat goes on!

Norwalk Taxpayer January 28, 2021 at 4:35 am

16 x 7 = 112 possible hours per week

There is a new contract in effect. The ONLY change was to pay levels???

Maybe somebody could negotiate a change to the 24 hour random drug test rule. It begs the question, why would the union want this rule to begin with?

During times of heavy construction which they say will continue for years, is it possible to have a third party security company cover extra duty work at lower rates to taxpayers? Even with the small admin fee Norwalk gets, there should be a more affordable way to direct traffic around a cone.

Lastly, Bob Duff is a dramatic liar. As a Democrat I’d given him the benefit of the doubt, but luckily realized his deceitful tactics before the election. He favors quality of life in wealthier towns, while pandering to the state and selling out Norwalk. Duff is a bigger problem than NPD. Our two police chiefs are far more professional and trustworthy!

M Murray January 28, 2021 at 8:30 am

By my calculations the very top wage earners average about 50 hours in extra work/overtime per week. That can easily be done by two doubles during the week and a couple on your days off.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

*

*

You may use these HTML tags and attributes: <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <s> <strike> <strong>