Saturday, February 9, 2008

3 city cops arrested in a week

By William Kaempffer
Register Staff
— Three city police officers have been arrested within the last week and two others remain on restricted duty following earlier arrests, shining an unwelcome spotlight on a department that is trying to move forward after a corruption probe last year.
Detective Clarence Willoughby was charged this week with stealing department funds; the two other officers were charged in the last six days for off-duty conduct.
State police charged New Haven Officer Ryan McFarland, a three-year member of the department, with third-degree assault and breach of peace on Feb. 4 in connection with an incident that occurred last July on a “party bus.” He allegedly got into a fight with another passenger, although state police released little information about the incident and the arrest warrant has not yet been filed in Superior Court. State Police Lt. J. Paul Vance said an additional arrest is expected.
The third arrest was of police Sgt. John P. Kelly, an 18-year veteran, for an incident involving his estranged wife. It was his second arrest in a domestic-related case in four months.
Kelly, of Southington, was arrested Wednesday by state police on charges of violating a protective order, threatening and harassment after his estranged wife called police and alleged he had called her house “speaking in a harassing and threatening way.”
Kelly, who has been on extended sick leave from the department, was first arrested in October on charges of threatening and disorderly conduct.
“When three officers get arrested in a week, certainly we should be very concerned,” said police Chief Francisco Ortiz Jr. “I’m embarrassed, if this continues to happen.”
It’s particularly frustrating, he acknowledged, as the department works to restore public trust after a corruption probe last year led to arrests of three officers, and then this week’s arrest of Willoughby.
The chief stressed the presumption of innocence and said he didn’t want to sit in an ivory tower and judge human behavior. can we please make sure this graph stays inAt the same time, he said he believes “there is clearly a common thread between off-duty and on-duty conduct.”
McFarland, 25, is on full duty as his case proceeds through court.
The police union contract allows the department to discipline officers for on-duty conduct, not for incidents off the job, although convictions in some cases could cost officers their certification.
“I am literally helpless in dealing with off-duty conduct,” said Ortiz, adding off-duty incidents probably would drop if he could impose consequences.
In domestic arrests, however, a state law is triggered when protective or restraining orders are issued requiring officers to surrender their weapons. Two police officers, Russell Blackwell and Steve McMorris, remain on restricted duty after arrests in December and January, respectively.
Dr. Robyn Gershon of Columbia University, who studied domestic violence at the Baltimore Police Department, said there’s no evidence domestic violence occurs in law enforcement at higher rates but noted it is likely fueled by high stresses of the job.
and many in the profession “don’t have the best coping mechanisms.”
Said Sandy Koorejian, executive director of Domestic Violence Services of Greater New Haven: “Certainly being a police is an incredibly stressful job, but that doesn’t excuse the behavior, We know that domestic violence can affect anybody. Police officers are people like anyone else.”

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