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Arrested Norwalk Police officers said to be under the influence while on duty

From left, Norwalk Police Officers Michael DiMeglio, 38, and Sara Laudano, 31, as shown in mug shots taken Tuesday. (Norwalk Police Department)

Updated, 2:39 p.m.: Comment from Police Chief Thomas Kulhawik.

NORWALK, Conn. — A pair of Norwalk Police officers who were arrested Tuesday have a child together, according to a police affidavit. The infant was in the female officer’s car, along with an adult who is not in the department, early during the officer’s Oct. 9 shift.

The officers had been drinking before their shift and continued while on duty, the affidavit states. They failed to respond to calls as midnight approached and were found in a hotel early Oct. 10.

Officers Michael DiMeglio, 38, and Sara Laudano, 31, surrendered themselves Tuesday evening at Norwalk Police Headquarters and were served with arrest warrants stemming from the incident, a press release said. Both were charged with larceny second degree and reckless endangerment second degree. Laudano was also charged with risk of injury to a child. Both had bail of $75,000 each, the affidavit states.

NancyOnNorwalk has made two attempts to contact a lawyer said to represent DiMeglio but has not been successful. NoN has not been told who represents Laudano.

Lt. Dave O’Connor, police union president, said he has not had the chance to review the affidavits and could not comment. “They’re entitled to presumption of innocence, and they’re entitled to due process,” he said.

 

Affidavit account

Sgt. Stefanos Kalmanides reports in his Dec. 30 affidavit that Laudano was on duty Oct. 9 for her regular shift from 4 p.m. to midnight. DiMeglio was working 4 p.m. to midnight on overtime, filling in because of manpower shortages. Both had agreed two days earlier to also work overtime from midnight to 4 a.m. Oct. 10 to fill in because of staffing shortages.

Investigators identified the female friend from video surveillance footage and Facebook posts, Kalmanides explains in the affidavit. Much of the testimony in the affidavit is from the friend, with video footage, DNA tests and fingerprints offered as confirming evidence, along with accounts of testimony from restaurant personnel and store managers.

Investigators learned that before coming to work, Laudano met the friend for lunch at Donavan’s on Washington Street, according to Kalmanides. The friend told them that Laudano “just had a baby and was not in a very good place in her home life.” The baby was with them in the restaurant, and DiMeglio, the baby’s father, arrived at about 3:30 p.m., “20-30 minutes prior to the start of their shift,” the friend told police.

Laudano had two beers during the visit and DiMeglio consumed one, the friend reported according to Kalmanides. The bartender treated the trio to Peanut Butter shots, and restaurant staff also drank shots. DiMeglio and Laudano left 10-15 minutes before the start of their shift, and the friend walked down the road to police headquarters at about 4:15 p.m., with the baby in a stroller, meeting the officers in the side parking lot.

They “all had a beer” while sitting in the side lot, after the officers’ shift began, Kalmanides reports the friend saying. DiMeglio “had poured a beer into a coffee cup and drank from it,” the affidavit states. “Laudano drank a beer from a can while seated in the open trunk area ·of her patrol SUV.”

The friend also said Laudano took a hit from a vaping device while in the police headquarters parking lot, inhaling THC (Tetrahydrocannabinol), Kalmanides said.

DiMeglio signed out one Ford Crown Victoria patrol vehicle but switched to a different Crown Vic before leaving headquarters at 5:42 p.m. He responded to a 5:38 p.m. report of a burglary alarm, arriving there at 5:57 p.m. As part of that call, DiMeglio had his service pistol out and “at the ready.”

The affidavit describes the use of the gun as not unusual, except that DiMeglio had been drinking.

Laudano and the friend left the department’s side parking lot in the black Ford Explorer at 5:37 p.m., after DiMeglio had helped secure the baby in a child seat in the back of the patrol car, and at 5:42 p.m. Laudano stopped near Budget Liquor Store at 542 West Ave., the affidavit states. The friend went in and bought a six-pack of Blue Point Mother Pumpkin Ale beer and four-pack of Ithaca Flower Power cans, using Laudano’s credit card.  Laudano had said she’d drink it after her shift, Kalmanides reports the friend as saying.

From there, Laudano did a U-Turn and went to Sedona Taphouse, in the Waypointe complex, where the friend got out with the baby and had dinner with Laudano’s wife, according to the affidavit. The wife took custody of the baby and returned the friend to her car at police headquarters. The friend then met Laudano in the parking lot behind High Road School, at 17 North Ave.

When the friend arrived, DiMeglio and Laudano were there having a beer in the patrol SUV, the affidavit reports the friend as saying. DiMeglio left for a meal break then came back about an hour later and had another beer. Laudano had two beers.

The affidavit says the SUV’s Automatic Vehicle Locating system (AVL) shows Laudano in the High Road lot from approximately 6:34 to 10:26 p.m.

While there, she claimed to be responding to a noise complaint, a report of an SUV parked in front of a home playing loud music with people yelling and screaming, the affidavit states. She later informed the dispatcher that it could be cleared with a “GOA” code, signifying that the people causing the noise were “gone on arrival.” This does not require a police report.

At 10:04 p.m. she was given a property damage complaint to investigate, Kalmanides reports. Laudano cleared that with dispatch at 11:30 p.m., after leaving High Road at 10:26 p.m. and spending $25.12 on hair products in a Main Avenue CVS at 11:02 p.m.

The friend reported that she believed Laudano was also expected to work later that morning, after her overtime shift ended at 4 a.m., according to Kalmanides. The time between her assignments was short and Laudano didn’t want to go home to her wife, so DiMeglio used points to book at room at the Even Hotel at 426 Main Ave. DiMeglio made the reservation online at 10:15 p.m., and checked in at 11:11 p.m. Laudano met him outside.

Laudano laid down on the bed for a couple of minutes, fell asleep and woke up when two sergeants banged on the door, realizing that she’d missed a phone call, the friend said, according to Kalmanides.

Dispatchers had attempted to send her to a loitering complaint that appeared to be unfounded, a report that cars and motorcycles were racing in a Connecticut Avenue parking lot, Kalmanides wrote. Not able to reach her, police used AVL to track Laudano’s SUV; at 1 a.m. Oct. 10, Sgt. Jeffrey Proudfoot and Sgt. Garrett Kruger found it in the hotel’s front lot, Kalmanides wrote.  A six-pack cardboard container of “Blue  Point Mother Pumpkin Ale” beer and a black plastic  four pack  holder,  commonly  used to hold four  packs  of IPA beers, was plainly visible in the car’s front seat. Also visible were Laudano’s bulletproof vest carrier and body camera.

DiMeglio’s patrol car, not equipped with AVL, was also parked at the hotel. A hotel manager directed Proudfoot and Kruger to room 302, the affidavit states. When DiMeglio opened the door, his uniform shirt was untucked, he was barefoot and not wearing his duty belt. He asked, “Did I miss a call?”

He said Laudano was in the bathroom, according to Kalmanides. They were told to get dressed and return to police headquarters.

Norwalk Police Deputy Chief James Walsh subsequently reviewed the AVL data and on the evening of Oct. 14, found beer containers in the lot behind High Road, consistent with the six-packs found in her car, the affidavit states. The next morning, in daylight, Lt. Thomas Mattera and Detective Daniel Serio found more: “another empty bottle of Blue Point Mother Pumpkin Ale beer and two separate broken bottles of Blue Point Mother Pumpkin Ale beer, as well as labels from Blue Point Mother Pumpkin Ale.” DNA tests link the officers to the beer cans and DiMeglio’s fingerprint was found on one, according to Kalmanides.

DiMeglio’s radio transmissions from Oct. 9 indicate that he responded to three other calls during his shift, but there’s no evidence to support this, the affidavit states. There’s no AVL data and the complainants for each of the three calls “indicated they did not have personal contact with a responding officer,” the affidavit states. “They were also unable to confirm or deny whether a patrol car responded to the call.”

One was a noise complaint, the second is listed as “other investigation” and the third was a parking violation.

Laudano was paid $41.07 an hour for her regular shift and $66.1227 for the overtime shift, receiving compensation for services not rendered, the affidavit states. DiMeglio was also paid $66.1227 an hour for his overtime, not performing his job.

 

Previous problem, extra duty assigments

DiMeglio had been found sleeping on-duty March 14 during a midnight shift, the affidavit states. This was discovered when DiMeglio didn’t answer a radio call dispatching him to a report of a suspicious person. He was driving the Crown Vic without AVL, which officers found 20 minutes later, parked at his Norwalk home, not in his assigned patrol area.

“Officer Dimeglio stated he had gone home to get something to eat and fell asleep. Officer Dimeglio was taken off the overtime payroll and relieved of his duties,” the affidavit states.

DiMeglio earned $222,136.78 in 2019 as a Norwalk Police officer, $83,716.59 was from his regular salary and the rest earned through overtime and extra duty assignments. Laudano earned $176,492.74.

Officers doing extra duty work are paid by the private contractors and utility companies that hire them, police have said. The city takes a 15 percent administrative fee for these extra-work contracts.

Laudano and DiMeglio “gave up a lot of their free time to work and made a pretty fair living to do that,” O’Connor said. They did it standing on their feet on a road, putting in hard hours.

“The Police Union Contract allows officers to work a maximum of 16 hours in each 24 hour period. There is ample off duty time for officers to take care of personal business,” Police Chief Thomas Kulhawik said Friday.

Will others face discipline because of the incident?

“An Internal Investigation will be conducted regarding the incident and I will review those findings,” Kulhawik said.

DiMeglio and Laudano have been on administrative leave, unable to earn overtime hours, and will “shortly” go on unpaid leave while the arrests work through the system, O’Connor said.

“That’s what the contract is. That’s what it allows us to do, and also what it allows management to do,” he said. “I feel badly that they went from making so much money” to unpaid leave. “The families that depend on them are now going to be the ones who are suffering the most for their alleged indiscretions.”

25 comments

Paul January 8, 2021 at 5:09 am

Something needs to change with the overtime setup at the PD. No human can consistently work 90 to 100 hours a week without a deep lapse in performance and/or mental judgement, as proven many times in this story. We all can assume more officers sleep while getting paid, conduct personal business while getting paid, etc. Something needs to change.
Flagmen for road construction maybe?

John ONeill January 8, 2021 at 6:19 am

O’Connor would have been better not commenting. His quotes make him look like an idiot.
This reads like a Quentin Tarantino script..
If these two cops are protected in anyway by union contract it’s time to modify contract
This makes the job of the other 99% of NPD a little more difficult today. Freaking Disgrace.

Tom January 8, 2021 at 6:59 am

There seems to be an over abundance of moon lighting police officers directing traffic or just monitoring construction sites. Maybe half, or at least some, of that money can be put into an entry level jobs program for Norwalk residents.

ConcernedToo January 8, 2021 at 7:34 am

The pay structure of NPD is absurd. Of course the cops aren’t actually working the hours they are paid for.

I’m not sure why this rises to criminal charges though, can’t they just fire the cops and move on? The rest of this just seems like voyeurism.

Rosella Looney January 8, 2021 at 7:55 am

I completely agree with Paul.
Though problems like this are uncommon they will happen again. Its crazy that 2 officers and their resources were not available for most of a shift. The not responding to calls and lying about location needs to be address by NPD via process.
The ability to work an unreasonable amount of OT needs to be removed. The city can decrease demand for OT if flaggers are used for traffic control at appropriate projects such at construction sites.
Other cities have implemented flaggers successfully. The Seattle/Bellevue/Tacoma area is (was?) the area with the largest number of ongoing large construction projects. Flaggers are used successfully. https://wsdot.wa.gov/Safety/WorkZones/training.htm

Alma Lyons January 8, 2021 at 8:04 am

In response to the flagger statement. This is why people say the fund the police. They are tired. Use flaggers and use other people where possible. I agree no one should be working 90 to 100 hours per week. Police officers are tired and with lack of sleep and, as research shows when they’re getting off shift 10 to make more unnecessary arrests. Those arrests are made because they have to fill out paperwork there for extending the time they’re working, they’re for putting in more overtime. That is what the fund the police really means. We know or the people who started that campaign, know that police need to be present. This is a prime example of what defund the police means. They are working too long and making bad decisions. No one needs to make that amount of money in overtime. There are people who would be able to flag traffic and make $13 an hour in Connecticut and would be happy to do it. Half the time they just standing there with each other talking to each other drinking coffee and who knows now after this article probably beer.

JustATaxpayer January 8, 2021 at 8:39 am

Let’s do some math.

Assuming a fulltime employee works a 40 hour week, gets 2 weeks paid vacation and 10 holidays, they work approx 1900 hours a year (work 48 weeks of the year)

At $80k salary, that’s 42 an hour.

Assuming overtime pays 1.5x, the officers make $63. To go from $80k a year to $222k, the officer would have to AVERAGE 86 hours of work EVERY WEEK.

Where are our taxpayer dollars going? This has to be the biggest scam going.

Alice January 8, 2021 at 9:01 am

Let’s not drag this out! They should be fired IMMEDIATELY!
What poor examples they are representing our police department.

M Murray January 8, 2021 at 9:16 am

Most are highly driven with a motivation to work and earn for their families. If they are not working extra duty assignments, they will be working second and third outside jobs to male up for it. Many officers and firefighters who are not on the “highest earner lists” already do so.

David January 8, 2021 at 11:14 am

I absolutely agree with your comment Paul. This much indiscretion and utter disregard for not only the lives of public supposed to “protect and serve” but their own lives and lives of the family members they support. That kind of activity doesn’t happen on ONE overnight lapse in judgement but slowly evolves and erodes a persons ability to make sound choices between right and wrong turning our character down an ugly road. I do feel terrible personally for their families and both officers as people but we can no longer turn a blind eye on this level of lawlessness and inexcusable behavior on so many levels! I’m not sure anymore if defunding police is a good or bad idea and allow citizens to protect themselves and each other. I wonder how many officers are doing similar activities and making more money than 90% of the population this is absolutely systemic. Sadly, both officers have most likely been getting away this for some time all while responding “sometimes” to calls and making arrests. At this point all I can say is “God help US!! AMEN!!

Ron Morris January 8, 2021 at 2:23 pm

JustATaxpayer
Years back we had cops that were stating they were 3 places at once. The question needs to be is anyone actually monitoring this mess or is it another free for all at the NPD?
No cop deserves almost a quarter million per year. This has been going on for years. Let us not forget the required education to be a Norwalk cop is a GED. Oh and please don’t anyone say how dangerous the job is as it not even in the top 10 most dangerous jobs. This is what is meant by DEFUND THE POLICE

ConcernedToo January 8, 2021 at 4:18 pm

@M Murray: Do you think any of those outside jobs would pay them $65 an hour to direct traffic? If they are going to work extra anyway, sounds like the pay should be lowered… the point of higher rate of pay for overtime is that people are otherwise reluctant to do it.

I also wonder how the construction workers holding the jackhammer feel when the union describes the job of standing and watching them work as “hard hours” deserving of that kind of pay.

But more importantly, having overtime be 60-70% of salary creates too many conflicts of interest. It creates a situation where everyone benefits by just looking the other way when someone takes a nap during a shift, or claims to work two jobs at the same time… because everyone is doing it, and everyone is making boatloads of money.

I would also love to see someone come up with a counterargument about how many hours these people are actually clocking… no one seems to be disputing the math posted above that DiMeglio’s salary seems to indicate that he was working 86 hours a week with no vacation for the entire year. That’s over 12 hours a day, 365 days a year, including every weekend and holiday.

The only logical explanation for this is that no one is looking too closely because they don’t want to kill the golden goose.

And I still don’t think the real story here is about these two cops individually. I think this is just a symptom of a completely bonkers environment where people are trying to work so many hours that it’s completely unhealthy (both mentally and physically) and they have to cut corners and eventually ruin their lives. It’s sad.

John Levin January 8, 2021 at 6:24 pm

I really question the management and oversight of the NPD. Clearly, officers know which vehicles are equipped with AVL devices, and some officers will choose their vehicle accordingly, when they are allowed to. If some vehicles are equipped with AVL, why not all? Officers know exactly how to game the system, and based on overtime earnings, they excel at it. Oversight of the NPD is tasked to Norwalk’s Police Commission, which consists of the Mayor and two appointed members. Is this city commission, as currently constituted, worthy of our confidence? I don’t know.

Some easy quick fixes: (1) better transparency, including MUCH better disclosure of compensation and overtime hours and disciplinary actions; (2) expand the Police Commission to 5 members, informally or formally, even if the latter requires a Charter revision; (3) police union contracts highly regulate management and oversight of departments and officers. I believe the NPD union contract expired over 6 months ago. Is that correct? What’s going on?

At nearly $27 million, NPD is the 2nd largest budget item for Norwalk, after Education of course.

steve January 8, 2021 at 10:33 pm

O’Connor’s nonchalant response and the levels of indiscretion by both officers bespeaks a “culture” problem at the NPD. I imagine the lion’s share of NPD want to do the right thing and joined the force to support our community- this must be incredibly difficult for them. Sounds like there needs to be a shakeup

JustATaxpayer January 9, 2021 at 8:41 am

One thing about our current President, like him or not, he takes questions and heat from the media. If the average citizen in Norwalk was aware of this through overtime issue through a broader lens, change would happen. Too bad we don’t have a broadcast media that would sufficiently do that job. NON brings light to these issues, wish it could be seen by all of Norwalk

Peg Drenckhahn January 9, 2021 at 2:02 pm

What is the discussion? Fire them. How many of us could get caught at this ridiculous level of disregard for their job and keep it. I don’t want to pay for it or continue to doubt that the NPD is there for my protection.

M Murray January 9, 2021 at 5:35 pm

Ron Morris, some will pay $65 per hour, some will not. Drivers for high level executives, dignitaries,and their families etc often pay very well on the side. Some have been full time Union machine operators working 40 hours a week in addition to their police jobs. Plumbers, electricians, roofers, home builders and house flippers have all done well with outside employment. Those that don’t make as much will simply work even more hours.

Nora King January 9, 2021 at 5:49 pm

I have finally realized after an incident today that the Norwalk Police Department needs to clean up their act. I have always been a huge supporter of our police. I was embarrassed for them today. They should not be allowed to moonlight – period the end. The behavior of this police office are Chick Filet today was horrible and unprofessional. Norwalk needs to be cleaned up.

David Muccigrosso January 9, 2021 at 6:48 pm

@John O’Neil, you’re absolutely right. O’Connor should be fired, as well as both of these officers. This is absolutely unacceptable behavior and speaks to personal problems that compromise their entire ability to carry out their duties. To then paper over that and whine about how bad it is for these officers, is a whole nother level of absurd.

Paul January 10, 2021 at 5:54 am

Didnt the common council recently vote to keep the PD on road jobs? I would LOVE to hear from ANY of my representatives their thoughts on how effective someone could be at any job working 100 hours each and every week.

Claire Schoen January 10, 2021 at 9:44 am

@JustaTaxpayer, thank you for recognizing NoN. We are scrappy, but we try hard to let you know what’s going on in Norwalk.
My question is simple: what is the department – and the city – going to do now, to ensure this can’t happen again?
The salary issue reminds me of the elite bankers and hedge fund managers, whose bonus is often many multiples of their base salary, often regardless of their performance during the year.
We need to fix this.

Ron Morris January 10, 2021 at 2:20 pm

M Murray
I would suggest that they start training for one of those jobs as the gravy train of looking at a hole in the ground from the car is coming to an end. With the next election less than a year away this will be one of the sticking point for the Mayor. It’s time that Rilling is gone as he is part of the old boys club at the NPD.

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