Albany Times Union
Officers repay ‘stolen’ hours
Colonie sergeants demoted without facing disciplinary charges in time-theft probe
COLONIE — Two Colonie police sergeants were demoted to patrol officers last year after an internal investigation determined they had allegedly been stealing from the town by swiping a time clock for one another to falsely indicate they were at work, according to public records.
The town subsequently reached settlements with the officers and their labor union that included requiring them to pay back dozens of hours of “unauthorized time” by drawing on their vacation leave and other accruals, according to copies of those agreements. The settlements were reached in lieu of the town serving them with formal disciplinary charges; police officials said they did not refer the matter to prosecutors for a review of any potential criminal charges.
The officers, Derek M. Breslin and Daniel P. Grebert, joined the Colonie Police Department in 2006. Both are the sons of former high-ranking town police officials: Breslin’s father is former Lt. Thomas Breslin, who retired in 2001; Grebert’s father is former Chief John Grebert, who retired in 2003.
Derek Breslin now works as a patrolman for the Niskayuna Police Department. He wrote a letter dated Nov. 21 to Colonie police Chief Michael D. Woods saying he was resigning from the department and that his last day would be Dec. 18. Six days before he wrote that letter, the Schenectady County Civil Service Commission approved a request from Niskayuna police officials to allow Breslin to transfer to their department.
“I have always loved working for this
town, and still believe it is one of the top law enforcement agencies in the area,” Breslin wrote in the letter to Woods. “Unfortunately, my values and career aspirations are something that I do not feel can be achieved at this police department. As much as I have enjoyed working here, the path of this department is no longer lining up with my beliefs of how law enforcement agencies should operate.”
Grebert remains employed by the Colonie Police Department as a patrolman.
Paul Derohannesian, an attorney who represented Breslin in the investigation, declined to comment. Paul E. Davenport, an attorney for Grebert, could not immediately be reached for comment on Monday.
The internal investigation was launched on Aug. 14, a day after the town received an anonymous complaint that was emailed to an online portal alleging the two sergeants had “been stealing time and money from the town for months.”
“Every weekend one of them comes in at start of shift and swipes both sergeants in,” the complaint stated. “Halfway through the shift the other one “comes in and the first one leaves but does not swipe. At (the) end of shift the second sergeant to come in swipes both out. Previously they were doing this for entire shifts, not just half the shift. How can they supervise others when they steal from the town.”
Deputy Chief Robert H. Winn last week said the department launched its internal investigation within 18 hours of receiving the complaint and did not try to identify the person who sent it.
“The early minutes of the investigation determined that there was some substance to the (allegations), so the officers were relieved of duty,” Winn said. “It really doesn’t matter whether (the complainant) is someone we know or don’t know. We investigate all these things, and that’s what happened in this case.”
Three days after the internal investigation began, Breslin and Grebert received letters informing them they were being placed on administrative leave with pay and needed to surrender their work keys, badges, identifications cards and service weapons. “Based on the outcome of the investigation, it is possible that disciplinary charges will be preferred against you,” the town’s human resources director wrote in the letter.
When asked whether the town had considered referring the matter to the Albany County district attorney’s office for a review of any potential criminal charges, Winn said they did not and added that their decision to settle the case without formal disciplinary charges was, in part, based on both officers having clean employment records for more than 16 years, including several commendations. Winn said the outcome — demoting both to patrolmen from sergeant — was viewed by the department as harsh punishment.
“In our world, that is an extremely serious penalty ... (and shows) not only how seriously we took it but how we were trying to find an equitable resolution to it,” Winn said. “The taxpayers are not out anything as a result of this.”
The settlements signed by the officers and the Colonie police chief indicate Grebert was required to pay back 175 hours of “personal service time” through accruals, while Breslin agreed to return 75 hours in the same fashion.
Seven years ago, New York amended its police certification regulations to prevent officers who are under investigation for misconduct, including potential criminal charges, from resigning or retiring from a department — and avoiding a disciplinary investigation — so they can seek employment at another law enforcement agency.
But that regulation was not a factor in Colonie’s internal investigation because neither officer was served with a formal notice of discipline at any point.
Instead, the settlement signed in early September ended the matter two months before Breslin submitted his resignation. A state official confirmed that based on how the matter was handled, it would not jeopardize either officers’ police certification.
Under pretrial discovery rules, the misconduct of the officers may be subject to disclosure to defense attorneys in criminal cases in which they are called to testify. The Albany County district attorney’s office confirmed that the files on the matter for both officers had been turned over to their office.
It’s unclear whether the Schenectady County district attorney’s office has received copies of Breslin’s employment records from Colonie — which may only be required to be disclosed to a defendant if he is a potential witness in a criminal case in that county.
Winn said that Niskayuna police officials were aware of the matter when they hired Breslin to work for their department.
“Breslin indicated to us that he did tell them,” Winn said. “We heard from our (human resources) department that representatives from their police department did go to our (human resources department) to review his personnel file.”
The early minutes of the investigation determined that there was some substance to the (allegations), so the officers were relieved of duty. It really doesn’t matter whether (the complainant) is someone we know or don’t know. We investigate all these things, and that’s what happened in this case.”
— Deputy Chief Robert H. Winn