Schenectady County

3 Schenectady officers out since 2007 to return soon

Three officers out on paid leave for more than a year are expected to finally return to work Sunday,
PHOTOGRAPHER:

Three officers out on paid leave for more than a year are expected to finally return to work Sunday, Schenectady police officials said.

The two others caught up in the controversial December 2007 drunken-driving arrest of Donald Randolph will remain on leave for the near future, Schenectady Police Chief Mark Chaires said.

Officers Daryl Mallard, Kevin Derkowski and Eric Reyell will be returning, while officers Gregory Hafensteiner and Andrew Karaskiewicz will remain on leave, the chief said.

Officials signed paperwork Thursday paving the way for the return of the three officers, police union president Lt. Robert Hamilton confirmed.

Chaires declined to say what has prompted the return of the three officers now other than to say that the internal investigation with regard to them has concluded.

Asked to comment further on the fate of Hafensteiner and Karaskiewicz and whether either would be invited back, Chaires said, “I can’t say they will and I can’t say they won’t.”

All five have been on paid leave since late December 2007. The leave cost the city just less than $330,000 last year, paying all five to stay home, according to numbers released under a Freedom of Information Law request. That amount does not include overtime paid to others to fill their empty shifts.

They were placed on paid leave after allegations that one or more officers used excessive force on Randolph as they arrested him on a drunken-driving charge.

The drunken-driving charge later fell apart.

The officer making the initial arrest was identified as Karaskiewicz. His role has been criticized by Schenectady County District Attorney Robert Carney, who said the officer acted with scant information.

Karaskiewicz, Carney said in May, never did sobriety tests and never even saw Randolph driving.

Instead, Karaskiewicz noted that Randolph had glassy eyes and there was an odor of alcohol, Carney said. Karaskiewicz first spotted Randolph outside the vehicle, which was parked in the Union Street McDonald’s drive-through early on Dec. 7, 2007.

Randolph was placed in the police car and transferred to a prisoner transport vehicle six blocks away. That vehicle was driven by Mallard. The three other officers arrived separately in patrol cars, partners Eric Reyell and Kevin Derkowski in one car and Gregory Hafensteiner in another.

Randolph’s family alleged that a half-dozen officers beat Randolph while arresting him and after Randolph tried to use a cellphone to call his girlfriend for help. Randolph was not seriously injured.

The case was investigated by a grand jury, but the excessive force allegations never rose to the level of an actual charge. The grand jury declined to indict related to those allegations but did hand up indictments against three of the five.

The three, including the returning Reyell, had faced misdemeanor official misconduct counts. They were charged with either failing to fill out the proper form related to the arrest or failure to turn on a camera in a police patrol car.

Reyell was the only officer charged with failing to turn on his camera.

Schenectady County Court Judge Karen Drago later threw out the indictments, ruling that an 18-year-old modification of state official misconduct statutes prevented a criminal prosecution.

The state attorney general’s office, which prosecuted the case, has filed a notice of appeal, a spokesman said Thursday. He declined to comment further.

Nonetheless, the indictments led to the three officers being suspended without pay for 30 days. Derkowski and Mallard remained with pay for the duration.

Union president Hamilton Thursday confirmed the expected returns of Derkowski, Mallard and Reyell. The union has heard nothing on Karaskiewicz and Hafensteiner, Hamilton said.

“The department has not given us a decision on what their position is going to be on those two officers,” Hamilton said.

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