Schenectady’s hearing officer has ruled that yet another police officer should be fired.
Officer Michael R. Brown, 28, who admitted to driving drunk, crashing into a car at a red light and then leaving the scene, is now being encouraged to resign, one city official said.
Another official said that Jeffrey Selchick’s recommendation unequivocally called for Brown’s termination.
Mayor Brian U. Stratton had previously said he wanted to fire Brown, but not solely because he drove drunk.
Another officer who drove drunk — but did not cause an accident and agreed to take a Breathalyzer test when stopped by police — was allowed to take a demotion instead.
Stratton said the difference was that Brown crashed into a car, injured the driver, left the scene and refused a Breathalyzer test.
Brown had worked for the Schenectady Police Department for five years when he was charged with DWI on March 1, 2009. He has been on paid suspension ever since, with the exception of two 30-day periods without pay. The city can withhold pay when an officer is charged and when the officer pleads guilty to a crime, as Brown did early this year.
Although the hearing officer has recommended termination, the mayor makes the final decision.
Brown does have some support: His aunt, City Councilwoman Barbara Blanchard, has long argued that Brown did not truly leave the scene. He turned down a side street before pulling over.
“He shouldn’t have done that. But you know, he had a head injury,” she said. “He walked back. He was helping the person he hit. So it’s not like he was running away.”
She’s hoping Stratton will take that into consideration and pick a lesser punishment when he announces Brown’s discipline, possibly next week.
“He has been an outstanding officer,” Blanchard said, noting that he used his time on suspension to finish his bachelor’s degree in political science at the University at Albany. “Many people have contacted the mayor about his abilities. He’s not in the category of the other officers at all.”
Stratton has described two other officers as “rogue cops” when firing them this year. Three others agreed to resign or retire instead of being fired, which the city welcomes because it eliminates the possibility of appeal.
Stratton has still not announced the discipline for Officer Darren Lawrence, who was recommended for immediate return to the force by the hearing officer. However, city officials say they made a tactical error in bringing the case against Lawrence. They chose not to present evidence of Lawrence’s alleged DWI in 2006, in which Lawrence is accused of crashing the car he was driving and then beating his passenger to keep him from reporting the incident to police.
An official with knowledge of the case said the city would likely have gotten a termination recommendation if the evidence of that incident had been presented during the hearing.
The city has also now scheduled a hearing for Officer Dwayne Johnson, the last of the eight officers on the mayor’s termination list. His hearing will be in August, shortly before his criminal case begins.
He is accused of working for a private company when he was supposed to be patrolling for the city.