The Day – Old Saybrook cop suspended for 90 days
Old Saybrook – A 43-second brawl at an Essex bar resulted in a 90-day unpaid suspension for Old Saybrook policeman Tyler Schulz.
Discipline, recommended by City Police Chief Michael Spera in a ‘last chance deal’ and unanimously authorized by the Old Saybrook Police Commission at its regular meeting which included an executive session Monday evening at the ‘city Hall. It forces Schulz to pay for a psychological evaluation and to be cleared to return to work when the suspension ends.
The committee must approve any suspension longer than 10 days.
The deal also strips Schulz of his role as coordinator of the department’s K-9 unit. While he remains a K-9 officer, a provision requires him to have his dog Chase recertified due to an extended absence.
Schulz, a member of the police force for seven years, was charged March 3 by Connecticut State Police with second-degree breach of the peace related to an altercation at the Scotch Plains Tavern four days prior. He had been on paid leave since his arrest.
Schulz’s union attorney Chip Walsh said the criminal case was dismissed, meaning she was not prosecuted.
Spera, in her letter to the commission, said her recommendation was based on a separate internal review of the court case. Although the chief does not believe the altercation rose to the level of permanently revoking Schulz’s police privileges and did not violate the state’s police accountability law, he said the officer had brought the department into disrepute and “may have diminished public confidence”.
Considering the aftermath, Spera said he wondered if Schulz would be able to effectively pursue his career with the necessary trust and respect from those he interacts with.
“The answers to these questions belong solely to Patrolman Schulz,” he wrote. “His or her emotional and psychological state must be assessed by a trained professional to determine if a person is psychologically fit to be a police officer. Equally important, patroller Schulz must be willing and diligent in repairing relationships and gaining the trust of police professionals. law enforcement, its supervisors, including myself, and members of our community.”
The internal affairs report, obtained through a Freedom of Information Act request, said Schulz was at the bar as part of a 29th birthday celebration with a group of friends and family when the fight broke out.
Captain Jeffrey M. DePerry’s investigation of Old Saybrook included interviews with Schulz and 16 witnesses, video footage, and photographs. Evidence revealed that the alcohol-fueled brawl in the pool hall stemmed from a verbal disagreement between Schulz and a 24-year-old man.
Schulz and the man considered each other unofficial half-brothers due to their unmarried parents’ longtime relationship, according to the report.
Video footage showed the fight involved nine people, according to the report. Schulz and another man were seen on camera pushing and grabbing each other “at the chest and neck” and choking briefly. The report says Schulz did not punch anyone but was punched in the face by two people.
The report says no one wanted to press charges, some for fear of reprisals. But state law requires police to make an arrest when there is probable cause of domestic violence.
Spera’s April 6 letter to the commission said the family court declined to pursue the case as a domestic violence incident, but state prosecutors at the time were moving forward. with the criminal charge.
State police didn’t learn the scuffle involved an Old Saybrook police officer until nearly two days later, according to the report. It was then that Police Master Sergeant Old Saybrook retired. Jay Rankin, who is currently on paid leave from his police job in Old Lyme due to unrelated issues, has called for the investigation of Private Mark Roberts.
DePerry’s investigation identified Rankin as the one who told Roberts the incident involved Schulz and his half-brother. The report says Rankin asked Roberts if he could “help” Schulz.
The next day, Schulz told DePerry that he contacted Rankin to get Roberts’ phone number after hearing that state police were investigating the incident.
Spera, in her letter, said Rankin’s description of the two men as half-brothers led Roberts to pursue a domestic violence case.
About two weeks later Rankin turned himself in following a lengthy investigation by Old Saybrook Police into allegations he used the n-word in an argument with a man pushing a shopping cart past the ward Old Saybrook fire station. He was a volunteer firefighter and former fire chief.
Rankin denied using the insult to police and pleaded not guilty in court. He is then due in court on June 23, according to the state judiciary website.
Rankin has been on paid leave from the Old Lyme Police Department for eight months.