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What you need to know for 03/30/2017

2 Schenectady cops could face dismissal

2 Schenectady cops could face dismissal

Two officers involved in the alleged beating of a man in 2007 are now facing internal discipline ove

Two officers involved in the alleged beating of a man in 2007 are now facing internal discipline over the incident and may be fired.

Officers Gregory Hafensteiner and Andrew Karaskiewicz, who have been out of work since December 2007, were charged administratively two weeks ago, Public Safety Commissioner Wayne Bennett said.

He declined to detail the charges but said there was a long list. The details will be kept secret for now under a departmental policy to keep such matters private, he said.

However, he plans to hold public disciplinary hearings for both officers if Judge Barry Kramer rules next month that such hearings can be held in public. At that point, the officers’ charges would be made public.

Mayor Brian U. Stratton said the charges against the officers are so extensive that both should be fired.

“Certainly, they’re entitled to their day in court,” he said, then added, “Our evidence and our feeling is their actions are worthy of dismissal. They were both derelict in their duty.”

They have been on paid leave since January 2008 while several investigations into their conduct were completed. Karaskiewicz has been paid $96,407 to stay home during that time while Hafensteiner has been paid $99,641, according to city payroll records.

They were pulled from active duty after the Dec. 7, 2007, arrest of Donald Randolph at the Union Street McDonald’s.

Karaskiewicz arrested Randolph on a driving while intoxicated charge after seeing Randolph outside a vehicle that had been parked in the McDonald’s drive-through. Randolph later admitted to having driven the vehicle, but the drunken driving charge fell apart from lack of evidence.

Schenectady County District Attorney Robert Carney said Karaskiewicz acted with scant information. He didn’t perform any sobriety tests, didn’t check Randolph’s license and didn’t even see Randolph drive.

Instead, Karaskiewicz made the arrest based on his observation that Randolph had glassy eyes and smelled of alcohol, Carney said.

What happened next has been veiled in secrecy for more than a year, although officials say they have some police car video footage showing at least part of the alleged beating.

For reasons that have not been made clear, four other officers converged at a spot six blocks away from the McDonald’s. Karaskiewicz brought Randolph there, removed him from the patrol car and began to transfer him to a prisoner transport van. Police say Randolph struggled. Randolph says he was attacked and badly beaten by multiple officers.

He did not require hospitalization but jail guards recorded minor injuries when they admitted him.

Of the four officers who joined Karaskiewicz at the scene, three have returned to duty. The fourth, Hafensteiner, faces termination with Karaskiewicz.

The case was investigated by the state attorney general’s office and a grand jury, which handed up indictments of both Hafensteiner and Karaskiewicz for failing to report the use of force. The jury also indicted Officer Eric Reyell for failing to turn on his police car camera, which could have recorded the incident. Reyell has since returned to duty.

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.

Stratton said that the disciplinary hearing will involve evidence not shown to the grand jury.

“There is additional evidence which was not part of the attorney general’s investigation,” he said. “I wish it were. They couldn’t use it, for their reasons, but it’s nothing that stops us from using it in our investigation.”

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