By Shawn Regan
---- — HAVERHILL — A city police officer suspended and demoted for giving preferential treatment to retired state troopers, was previously suspended for failing to properly investigate a case in which a fellow Haverhill officer may have been drinking while driving.
Last month, Mayor James Fioretini suspended Officer Harry Miller for 10 days for writing untruthful or incomplete reports, unsatisfactory job performance and violating police ethics for his role in the handling of separate car accidents involving retired high-ranking state troopers in March and in 2005.
Police Chief Alan DeNaro wanted to fire Miller, but Fiorentini declined to terminate the officer’s employment after Miller agreed to apologize and be demoted from sergeant to patrolman.
Miller’s punishment followed a local police investigation and closed-door hearings that also involved two other Haverhill officers who have also been suspended for their roles in the handling a March crash involving Charles Noyes, 62, of Haverhill, former deputy superintendent of the Massachusetts State Police. Miller was suspended for five days for that incident and another five days for what officials called his questionable investigation of a 2005 crash involving former state trooper Paul Regan of Rowley, who retired from the state police in 2003 as a lieutenant colonel. The city learned of the Regan incident during its investigation of the Noyes accident.
According to documents obtained by The Eagle-Tribune that were part of the city’s investigation of the Noyes and Regan cases, Miller was previously suspended for five days in November 2011 for failing to properly investigate an automobile accident involving Haverhill detective Glen Fogarty, who was off duty at the time of the crash.
Messages left with police union officials for Miller and Fogarty were not returned.
According to a 2011 disciplinary letter sent to Miller by DeNaro, Miller was called to the scene of the Fogarty accident by patrolmen already there.
“After speaking with (Fogarty) for approximately 15 minutes, you determined that he had an apparent odor of alcoholic beverage on his breath,” DeNaro wrote to Miller. “You then asked one of the responding officers if he believed (Fogarty) was ‘lit’ and the officer responded by shrugging his shoulders.”
The chief’s letter said Miller observed a can of beer on the side of the road near (Fogarty’s) vehicle.
“You failed to check the beer to determine if it was cold and never inquired of the officer if the beer belonged to him,” DeNaro wrote. “Even though you detected an odor of alcohol on the only driver involved in this accident you failed to have any standard roadside sobriety tests conducted at the scene.”
The Police Department’s investigation concluded that Miller “compromised the public’s confidence in the department’s ability to equitably enforce the laws of the Commonwealth,” the letter said. “Your cavalier response to this situation also raises concerns about your ability to supervise the members of your squad, especially when difficult decisions have to be made.”
Miller served his unpaid suspensions in the Fogarty case in November and December 2011.
In the 2005 crash involving Regan, investigators concluded Miller conducted a questionable investigation and violated several Police Department rules in his handling of an incident in which Regan crashed his Mercury into another vehicle at the intersection of Route 110 and Forest Street and then fled the scene.
Police found that Miller changed the nature of Regan’s crash on police paperwork from a hit-and-run to a “regular” motor vehicle accident. The investigative report said Miller declined to charge Regan with a crime after meeting with an unidentified state trooper less than one hour after the crash. The meeting took place in a Haverhill shopping mall, according to the police report, which also stresses that Regan was no longer a state trooper at the time.
Investigators said Miller told them he could not recall the name of the trooper who came to meet him and that he did not write it down anywhere or document the meeting in any way. Police said they do not believe Miller ever spoke to Regan about the crash.
Last month, the mayor suspended Miller, Lt. William Leeman and patrolman Christopher Pagliuca for their roles in the handling of the Noyes accident. Miller and Leeman received 10 days each and Pagliuca received five days. Pagliuca and Leeman have appealed their suspensions to the state Civil Service Commission. As part of his deal to keep his job, Miller agreed to give up his right to appeal his punishment. Miller is allowed to reapply for the civil service promotion exam in three years, according to the agreement he made with the mayor.