By Shawn Regan
---- — HAVERHILL — The state Civil Service Commission has rejected a second bid by two Haverhill police officers to have their suspensions reversed after they were found to have given preferential treatment to a former state trooper who crashed his SUV in Haverhill.
The Aug. 8 ruling — which reiterates a prior ruling the commission made in the case — paves the way for the officers to appeal their suspensions to Superior Court, which the police union has said the officers intend to do.
The Haverhill officers — Lt. William Leeman and patrolman Christopher Pagliuca — were suspended without pay for ten and five days, respectively, for violating police rules and ethical standards, as well as unsatisfactory performance.
According to police reports, Charles Noyes, a retired state police lieutenant colonel, crashed his Cadillac Escalade in West Newbury on March 30, 2012, then kept driving with his air bags deployed until police found him in the travel lane just over the Haverhill line. The crash snapped a utility pole on Route 113 in West Newbury, cutting power to the surrounding area for almost 11 hours. Several police officers and medics at the scene testified that they believed Noyes to be intoxicated, but Noyes was not charged with drunk driving and he was not arrested.
An internal Haverhill police investigation concluded that Noyes was given special treatment by West Newbury and Haverhill police officers due to his previous state police position, and that officers acted to cover up their actions in investigating the incident. The probe specifically faulted the officers for not charging Noyes with drunken driving and for not arresting him at the scene.
Noyes eventually was sentenced in Newburyport District Court to six months of unsupervised probation after admitting there were sufficient facts to find him guilty of negligent driving and leaving the scene of an accident that caused property damage — a charge filed by West Newbury police.
Leeman’s and Pagliuca’s chief argument in fighting their suspensions is that they believed West Newbury Sergeant Daniel Cena, who was the first police officer on the scene, was in charge and should have arrested Noyes and charged him with drunken driving. The Haverhill officers have asserted that Cena was the only officer who witnessed Noyes at the wheel of his vehicle, and thus able to prove Noyes was the operator, according to documents in the case.
Haverhill police Chief Alan DeNaro rejected that argument, however.
DeNaro “was concerned that the officers had not made an arrest at the scene, regardless of whether or not Cena should have made the arrest,” reads the city’s legal argument supporting the suspensions. “If we have a crime committed in the city of Haverhill and we have probable cause, regardless of the action or inaction of another officer from (another department) that doesn’t handle the calls we handle ... my officers with their vast knowledge and experience should have made the arrest,” the chief testified at a local discipline hearing for the officers.
Leeman and Pagliuca were also cited for writing shoddy and incomplete reports.
“The (officer’s) report also does not include any mention of the HPD’s concerns regarding jurisdiction and how the decision was made that HPD was not going to charge Noyes with OUI,” the city’s legal brief in the case reads. “This, coupled with the glaring absence of any mention of the evidence at the scene that would have supported probable cause to make an arrest, makes the report appear as though the officers tried to cover up their decision to give a pass to a retired lieutenant colonel of the state police on an OUI charge.
“At the very least, the report reads like these officers knew they had not adequately performed their duties, which they did not, and were trying to cover up that fact.”
In its latest decision not to reverse its earlier ruling supporting the officer suspensions, the new civil service ruling said the officers, “failed to identify a clerical or mechanical error or a significant factor the commission or presiding officer may have missed.”
The officers and the police union now have 30 days to appeal the suspensions to Superior Court.