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Copyright 2005 The News and Observer

The News & Observer (Raleigh, North Carolina)

June 29, 2005 Wednesday
Final Edition

NEWS; Pg. A1

751 words


Raleigh fires 2 officers;
Pair ignored calls, department says

Sarah Ovaska, Sarah Ovaska, Staff Writers


RALEIGH -- Two officers on a Raleigh police squad have been fired, two others have resigned and two have been suspended after an investigation found that they lied about responding to calls or violated department procedure.

The officers said that they were overworked and that, in some cases, they had to ignore calls that weren't life-threatening.

The internal affairs investigation, which ended in the spring, centered on an eight-member squad from District 21, officers said.

The district has 77 sworn officers and covers northwest Raleigh west of Six Forks Road and north of the I-440 Beltline. It is the fourth-largest of the city's six districts.

The department fired Officers William Felton, 30, and Matthew Saylors, 25, on April 28, according to city personnel records.

Officer Jason Lish, 32, resigned April 28, and Christopher Mingia, 31, resigned May 3, according to city records.

Officers Jay E. Krueger, 26, and Kevin A. O'Neal, 28, were suspended June 10, records show.

Police officials, citing privacy laws, declined to say why the six were fired, were suspended or resigned. But several of the officers involved confirmed the reasons.

Krueger, O'Neal and Saylors could not be reached for comment.

Police Chief Jane Perlov declined to discuss the investigation. But in a statement authorized by Perlov and released late Tuesday, police officials said the inquiry started this year after other officers tipped investigators.

"The investigation revealed policy violations and training concerns," the statement said. "The department took disciplinary action and other appropriate steps."

On May 2, four days after the firings, Deputy Chief M.R. Kielty sent a memo to the police department about conduct.

"Integrity, accountability and high-caliber service are among the Department's stated values," Kielty wrote. "And must always be evidenced as we give conscientious attention to our lawful duties."

Since Jan. 1, only one other officer -- a new recruit -- has been fired by the department, according to city records.

The officers involved said they were overworked with calls and reports, and had to prioritize calls.

Felton said he routinely doctored computer reports and lied about responding to calls. He classified the missed calls as minor -- loud music complaints at 4 a.m. from anonymous complainants or reports of trees in roadways.

"Everyone on our squad was picking and choosing," Felton said.

His co-worker, Lish, agreed.

"We simply didn't have enough people," he said.

Lish, who joined the department in 2000, said he ignored dispatches for loud-music complaints and repeated calls to the same address because of pressure from superiors to write citations and make arrests. "You're judged by the amount of paperwork that you generate," Lish said.

In March, when he was transferred to a crime prevention program, Lish thought superiors were investigating his actions. He resigned without speaking to internal affairs, he said.

District 21's call volume in 2004 fell at the median of the city's six districts, according to a computation of police department data.

During 2004, District 21 officers handled 5,336 calls, 14 percent of the citywide total. The downtown district handled the fewest -- 2,851, or 7 percent -- and District 24 in Southeast Raleigh fielded 11,066, 29 percent of the total.

During the internal affairs probe, investigators created bogus calls to see how officers would respond, officers said.

Felton lied about responding to the calls and tried to cover his tracks when investigators questioned him, he said.

Mingia said superiors caught him falsifying radar hours.

To be certified as law enforcement officers in North Carolina, police must practice using radar while on duty, according to the N.C. Attorney General's Office.

"There were times I wasn't even in the car," Mingia said.

He stressed that he never avoided responding to dispatched calls for help.

The presidents of two Raleigh police associations said their groups were not contacted about the inquiry. Rick Armstrong, president of the Raleigh Police Protective Association, said other officers were appalled by the failure to respond to calls.

Randy Miller, president of the Police Benevolent Association Raleigh-Wake County chapter, said the fired officers' actions were unacceptable.

"We're responsible for the service we provide for our citizens," Miller said. "As police, we're disappointed when something like this happens."

(News researchers Brooke Cain, David Raynor and Lamara Williams-Hackett contributed to this report.)
 
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