Milford Connecticut Police Destroy Cruiser Tapes in Vehicular Manslaughter Cover Up
Posted by iusbvision on November 20, 2010
We do report police misconduct here, but not because we are anti-police. On the contrary good policing is vital to any civil society.
With that said, we always have to keep in mind that as society has a spiritual, philosophical and educational break down, these problems manifest themselves everywhere. They especially manifest themselves with politicians and judges who do not respect the limits of their office or the idea of limited government.
MILFORD — If the dashboard video from city police cars was erased after a Freedom of Information Act request was filed for it, the city could face a big legal headache, experts said Tuesday.
The video was being sought by Bart Halloran, the lawyer for the family of one of teens killed when their car was broadsided by a Milford police cruiser last year. Halloran said that he hoped to use it to establish a pattern of Milford police officers using excessive speed on routine business.
New Haven attorney John Williams said that the claim by Milford police that a records clerk was “inadvertently” ordered to destroy thousands of hours of video files that were the subject of Halloran’s FOI request, “sounds like espoiliation of evidence. All he has to show is that it was there, that he asked for it, and that it was relevant to his case.”
Tom Hennick, spokesman for the state Freedom of Information Commission, agreed that if the video files existed when Halloran requested them but were later destroyed, “that could be a problem for the city. On the other hand, if they were gone when the complaint came in, we can’t order the creation of records.”
Mayor James L. Richetelli Jr. said that he couldn’t comment on the situation because it involves pending litigation. “Really, all I can say is that I believe that the chief has handled this matter properly. Now it is up to the FOI (Commission) to decide.”
Chief Keith Mello said Monday that the video files that were destroyed were being reviewed in relation to the FOI request, and that he had ordered that they be preserved until the matter was resolved. Mello said that he suspended Lt. Dan Bothwell, who oversees the records division, for one day without pay over the incident.
The chief did not respond Tuesday to a reporter’s questions, and it isn’t known exactly when the erasure was discovered or whether any more video files that Halloran is seeking still exist. The lawyer said that he received about seven hours of video several months ago.
An FOI hearing officer is scheduled to meet with Halloran, Mello and attorney James Tallberg, who represents the city, on Oct. 18 in Hartford to discuss whether the video files must be turned over. It is far from a moot point; the commission can levy fines of up to $1,000 per violation for noncompliance — and if the relevant files were destroyed the city can’t comply.
Halloran represents the parents of David Servin, who was killed June 13, 2009, along with his girlfriend, Ashlie Krakowski. The couple, both 19, were returning to Servin’s home in Orange when their car was T-boned by a Milford police cruiser being driven by Officer Jason Anderson.
So one man was suspended for one day and the city may have to pay a few thousands dollars in fines, but this much cheaper than defending against civil lawsuits stemming from in speeding and other violations that would/could have been found on those deleted tapes. The case could have been made that there was a pattern of reckless/bad behavior in the department so therefore the city is liable. As a result of such a suit some in the brass would have been the “fall guys” and heads would have rolled.
The brass won’t be paying the FOIA fines, the taxpayers of Connecticut will.
This is another example of why sovereign immunity laws need to be reformed so that public officials (and yes even college administrators) who violate the law can be held personally liable.