The Day – The Old Saybrook Police Officer has been suspended for 90 days
Old Saybrook – A 43-second fight at an Essex bar has resulted in a 90-day unpaid suspension of Old Saybrook Police Officer Tyler Schulz.
The discipline, recommended by the city’s chief of police, Michael Spera, in a “last-chance agreement” and unanimously approved by the Old Saybrook Police Commission at its regular meeting, which included an executive meeting Monday night at City Hall. It requires Schulz to pay for a psychological evaluation and obtain authorization to return to work at the end of the suspension.
The Commission must approve any suspension longer than 10 days.
The agreement also strips Schulz of his role as the department’s K-9 unit coordinator. While he remains a K-9 officer, a regulation requires him to have his dog Chase recertified due to an extended absence.
Schulz, a seven-year-old police officer, was charged March 3 by Connecticut State Police with second-degree trespassing in connection with an altercation at the Scotch Plains Tavern four days earlier. He has been on paid leave since his arrest.
Schulz’s union attorney, Chip Walsh, said the criminal case had been dropped, meaning it had not been prosecuted.
In his letter to the Commission, Spera said his recommendation was based on an internal review separate from the court process. Although the boss didn’t believe the altercation went so far as to permanently strip Schulz’s police privileges and not violate the state’s police accountability law, he said the officer brought the department into disrepute and “possibly violated the trust of the public weakened”.
In considering consequences, Spera said he considered whether or not Schulz could effectively continue his career with the necessary trust and respect from those with whom he interacts.
“The answers to these questions lie solely with Patrolman Schulz,” he wrote. “His emotional and psychological state must be evaluated by a professional qualified to determine whether a person is mentally suitable to be a police officer. Equally important, Patrolman Schulz must have the desire and diligence to mend relationships and earn the trust of law enforcement officers, his superiors, including myself, and members of our community.”
The internal affairs report, obtained through a Freedom of Information Act request, says Schulz was at a 29th birthday celebration with a group of friends and family at the bar when the fight broke out.
The investigation of Old Saybrook Capt. Jeffrey M. DePerry included interviews with Schulz and 16 witnesses, video footage and photos. Evidence showed the alcohol-fueled fight in the pool room stemmed from a verbal disagreement between Schulz and a 24-year-old man.
Schulz and the man considered each other unofficial stepbrothers due to their unmarried parents’ longstanding relationship, the report said.
Video footage showed the fight had grown to nine people, according to the report. Schulz and another man could be seen in front of the camera pushing each other and grabbing “the chest and neck area” and briefly choking each other. According to the report, Schulz did not hit anyone but was punched in the face by two people.
According to the report, no one wanted to press charges, some for fear of retaliation. However, state law requires that police make an arrest if there is a probable cause to suggest that domestic violence is involved.
Spera’s April 6 letter to the commission said the family court had declined to pursue the case as a domestic violence incident, but prosecutors had filed the charges at the time.
According to the report, state police did not know that an Old Saybrook police officer was involved in the fight until nearly two days later. That was when retired Old Saybrook Police Master Sgt. Jay Rankin, who is currently on leave from his position as Police Officer at Old Lyme due to unrelated issues, called investigating Trooper Mark Roberts.
DePerry’s investigation identified Rankin as the one who told Roberts that the incident involved Schulz and his stepbrother. According to the report, Rankin asked Roberts if he could “help out” Schulz.
Schulz told DePerry the next day that he contacted Rankin for Robert’s phone number after hearing that state police were investigating the incident.
Spera said in his letter that Rankin’s description of the two men as stepbrothers prompted Roberts to pursue a case of domestic violence.
About two weeks later, after a lengthy investigation by Old Saybrook Police, Rankin faced allegations that he had used the n-word in an argument with a man who was pushing a shopping cart in front of the Old Saybrook Fire Department. He was a volunteer firefighter and a former fire commander.
Rankin denied using the bow to police and pleaded not guilty in court. He is next scheduled to appear in court on June 23, according to the state Justice Department‘s website.
Rankin has been on paid leave from the Old Lyme Police Department for eight months.