RI Criminal Defense Lawyer James E. Smith found this article in the Projo. Even police officers are human and when we’re questioned by them, we must always keep that in mind. This fact alone should be sufficient for all of us to engage our Fifth Amendment Rights against self incrimination and refuse to speak with the police.
5 Providence sergeants demoted in payment scheme
By Gregory Smith
PROVIDENCE — Five sergeants have been demoted as punishment for what Police Department brass say was their participation in a scheme to be paid for time not worked.
Police Chief Dean M. Esserman acknowledged the recent demotions to patrolman after an inquiry by The Providence Journal. He said it is a confidential personnel matter and he would not identify the officers.
All were suspended with pay for 8½ months, from the time the scheme was discovered until they consummated written agreements in late December to accept demotions rather than fight administrative disciplinary charges, the chief acknowledged.
During those months, there was an internal departmental investigation and audit, then an investigation by the attorney general’s office that did not result in criminal charges, and then a negotiated settlement.
“We must always hold ourselves to the high standards the community expects of us,” Esserman said Wednesday. “We would expect better from a Providence police officer.”
Besides accepting pay cuts for the lower rank, the settlement agreements required them to repay certain cash sums and to give up undeserved credit for time worked, Esserman said. The highest sum repaid was about $1,000 and the surrendered credits ranged from a dozen days to two dozen days.
They also waived their entitlement to compete for promotion to sergeant the next time a promotional examination for that rank is held, according to Esserman.
They had to turn in their gold sergeant’s shields in return for silver patrolman’s shields and throw away their uniform shirts with three stripes on the sleeves denoting sergeant’s rank.
The scheme, he said, involved tampering with a record called the timebook, a daily work schedule that was maintained by sergeants. The timebook is supposed to be updated if someone takes an unexpected sick or vacation day. The modified list is then entered into an electronic record for payroll purposes.
This combination of paper and electronic records is used to keep track of each officer’s bank of vacation and sick time.
The scheme would work two ways, according to Esserman. Either an absent sergeant could connive with a friend to not mark him absent, or he could alter the timebook later to make it appear that he had worked.
Each officer has a bank of sick and vacation time that accrues, so by cheating, a sergeant could conserve his paid time off. Officers who use no sick time in a given year are eligible for a $500 annual bonus. Additionally, banked time can be cashed in when an officer retires.
Investigators looked over three years of records pertaining to the suspects. Under the demotion deal, according to Esserman, the five had to reduce their banks to account for the undeserved time.
As a result of the cheating, Esserman said, the department limited access to the timebook, put lieutenants and captains in charge of it, and made the procedure more stringent.
“The Police Department discovered this wrongdoing, investigated itself, promptly referred the matter to the attorney general’s office for their review, and then acted decisively,” Esserman said.
Last spring, the department asked if criminal prosecution was advisable, and the attorney general’s office replied in September that there was “insufficient evidence to proceed” criminally.
Citing violations of five sections of the department’s rules and regulations, including misrepresentation and falsification of records, department leaders then notified the five sergeants that they faced administrative discipline that could include firing. Rather than press the charges, however, the chief struck a deal with them.
Esserman declined comment on why he made that choice.
The weekly base pay for a sergeant is $1,134.06. The weekly base for a top-step patrol officer — the rank into which they fell — is $988.58. Officers get more pay based on their longevity on the job and other factors.
As soon as the five accepted their demotions, the department quickly held a promotional ceremony in late December in which 10 officers were promoted to sergeant. Previously, there had been only five vacancies available after a promotional exam was administered.