Meriden police release video of incident that led to suspension of two officers

Meriden police release video of incident that led to suspension of two officers


MERIDEN — City police released video this week of a September incident that resulted in the suspension of two officers.

The Sept. 19 incident was the subject of a recent internal affairs investigation . Officer John Slepski and John Slezak’s actions responding to the report of an intoxicated man lying in the middle of the road resulted in unpaid suspensions for both officers — 60 days for Slepski, starting on Feb. 2, and five days for Slezak, which started on Feb. 5.

Detective John Williams, president of the police union, said Slezak has filed a grievance over his discipline.

The video shows a roughly three-minute interaction between the officers and the man. Both officers’ tone during the encounter is demeaning and sarcastic. Slepski can be heard using explicit language and states to Slezak “I think we oughta just (expletive) pop him.” Slepski can be heard saying with apparent sarcasm that they should drop the man off in Durham or “off the castle.” Slezak states that they should drop him off in Southington.

During the interaction, Slepski threatens to use his pepper spray to stir the man into getting out of the street. Initially investigators believed he did deploy pepper spray, but after a thorough investigation, Lt. Sal Nesci determined it was not used.

The video, obtained through a Freedom of Information Act request, was pulled from an in-car camera in Slepski’s cruiser, and accompanying audio obtained from his body microphone. There was no video from Slezak’s vehicle.

Police Chief Jeffry Cossette found the officers’ interactions with the man — Slepski’s in particular — to be unacceptable, he wrote in discipline letters to each officer.

Asked whether their actions warranted the discipline they received, Williams’ answers differed for each officer.

“As far as Slepski’s discipline, he chose not to grieve it so I think that speaks for itself!” Williams wrote in an email to the Record-Journal. In a previous email, however, Williams said that threatening to use pepper spray as a means of gaining compliance is a tactic approved by the U.S. Supreme Court.

Regarding Slezak, Williams wrote, “what behavior did he have? He cannot control what comes out of Slepski’s mouth.”

Williams argued that Slezak didn’t know he was being recorded. The audio recording from Slepski’s body microphone was triggered when the police cruiser emergency lights are activated. Williams said the recordings are required for motor vehicle stops, but as the city officers don’t have body cameras yet, Slepski wasn’t required to record the incident in September.

“So why Slepski was using it for this incident can only be explained as I think he forgot he had it in his pocket,” Williams wrote.

Despite that, Williams notes that Slezak “did not swear at the individual, he did not cuss, he did not call him any names, he even walked along side of him when the individual stumbled to the roadway to catch him if he fell.

“So the question is, what did Slezak do to warrant a five-day suspension, the answer, absolutely nothing,” Williams wrote. “Slezak is not known to be rude to citizens or abuse his authority. ...I am very confident that his discipline will not be upheld at the State Labor Board.”

Cossette was critical of Slepski’s actions in a letter of discipline while calling Slezak’s actions “unacceptable.”

“Your conduct while acting as a Meriden Police Officer is disgraceful,” he wrote to Slepski. “Your dehumanizing and demoralizing treatment of this citizen in need of medical attention sickens me. Your actions did not perpetuate the mission of the Meriden Police Department.”

“If a fellow officer is behaving in a demeaning and demoralizing way toward a citizen, you have a Duty to Act,” he wrote to Slezak. “You said nothing to Officer Slepski as he directed the derogatory comments toward the citizen. When the citizen was directed to ‘crawl on the ground if he had to,’ you offered no assistance to this citizen. You allowed for this citizen to be treated in this manner.”

Public Safety Committee Chairman Larue Graham said he had not watched the video as of Wednesday, but was familiar with the situation and discipline.

“I know that Chief Cossette took their actions and their discipline very, very seriously, and he did consult with city labor lawyers prior to disciplining,” Graham said. “He did want to make sure that it was a very tough and very harsh discipline because that type of behavior wouldn’t be tolerated.” 203-317-2279 Twitter: @MollCal

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