Suffield dispatcher accused of being drunk on the job - WFSB 3 Connecticut

I-Team Investigation

Suffield dispatcher accused of being drunk on the job

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Suffield police (WFSB) Suffield police (WFSB)

The latest incident surrounding a Suffield police dispatcher involves a delayed call leaving an elderly woman lying on the ground for almost one hour.

Seven months ago the I-Team began investigating Suffield police officers' safety concerns and alcohol related allegations against a civilian dispatcher.

Longtime dispatcher Stacey Robins is the subject of more than 200 pages of investigative materials that the I-Team repeatedly requested from Suffield police over the past several months.

The latest “on-the-job incident” that involves Robins came to light on May 31, when documents showed she was sent home and suspended with pay.

According to documents “Dispatcher Robins failed to dispatch assistance for a fallen, uninjured 94-year-old woman for 47 minutes…It was only after receiving a second call 36 minutes later that she dispatched a police officer 11 minutes later.”

Police concluded that she also violated several policies, including: use of alcohol on duty or in uniform, insubordination for refusing to submit to a urine sample, and violating a continue-to-work agreement.”

On that day, Robins reportedly contacted her patrol commander, complaining her radio wasn't working and the dispatch computer was broken.

According to Lt. Richard Brown, it was an operator error.

He smelled alcohol when he arrived at the station to assist and thought Robins was having a panic attack so he called for an ambulance.

Investigative papers show Robins failed several sobriety tests at the police station by at least two higher ups, confessing to her captain saying “Last night, I drank up until Conan came on the TV. I know I screwed up and I didn't eat very much either.”

She had also confessed that she drank three glasses of wine, however according to documents, Brown said “During the conversation I noticed the odor of alcohol beverage had was my opinion, based on my observations, that Dispatcher Robins was legally intoxicated and it may not have been the first time.”

“It is a concern, yeah, it's a big concern. I want to ensure the people in town are being properly protected by our emergency services. And that' is one of the reasons we've taken steps to remove the dispatcher now that it is clear it's still a problem, and to underscore the fact that these sorts of activities cannot be tolerated,” said Suffield First Selectman Edward McAnaney.

The town first learned about alcohol related allegations against Robins in August of 2014, when two on-duty police officers voiced concerns about the “inability to receive adequate information from Dispatcher Robins during a routine motor vehicle stop,” documents said.

Officer Justin Nelson said, according to documents, he was no longer going to stop vehicles because he didn't feel it was safe to do so with her in dispatch

Robins was sent home from her shift that day after Police Chief Mike Manzi observed her to be in “a confused frame of mind. She was disheveled in appearance with unkempt hair, her eyes were blood shot, she was unsteady on her feet and appeared to have a lethargic disposition about herself,” the report said.

Records show Robins eventually complied with an alcohol/drug test at a medical facility in Enfield.

Though the outcome of those results are blacked out in reports obtained by the I-Team, the investigative summary said “employees, as in this case, with alcohol problems shall have the same rights as other employees with other health problems... the town must consider a reasonable period of time for a good-faith attempt at rehabilitation.”

One week later, a letter from the town indicated that Robins was referred to Suffield's Employee Assistance Program and was cleared to return to work on Sept. 16, 2014, as long as she met the conditions of her treatment plan.

During a recorded hearing about Robins' referral to the Town Employee's Assistance Program, a union representative and the recording secretary appeared to joke about the situation before police reminded them that they were getting off topic.

There was another alleged incident in between August of last year and last month.

In the fall the I-Team obtained exclusively two separate reports from officers John Lacic and Jeff Reynolds, which had been given to their superiors.

Both officers believed Robins was working under the influence of alcohol last October, sparking outcry from Suffield residents who were demanding answers.

Lacic told his sergeant one day that it wasn't the first time he had smelled alcohol on Robins' breath “and that he was not going to sit around anymore due to this becoming a safety issue.”

Regarding those claims, police concluded that they could not support the allegations.

"The supposed information came around 7 a.m. They didn't report the incident to their superiors until 9 am. And by the time the investigating officers appeared at the station, three hours had passed from the smelling of alcohol, so that's why you get that response,” McAnaney said.

Officer Jeff Reynolds hired Attorney Norm Pattis and late last month Pattis filed a federal lawsuit on behalf of Reynolds.

The lawsuit is seeking unspecified damages against the town, Chief Manzi and Captain Craig Huntley.

“Really what my client wants is to continue supporting his family as a Suffield police officer, and he wants the chief to back off,” Pattis said.

The lawsuit claims Reynolds has been threatened and intimidated at work.

Chief Manzi and Captain Huntley have not agreed to follow up on the matter with the I-Team.

According to the police department's own investigation, two out of three alcohol related allegations against Robins appear to be accurate.

The first selectman said in every circumstance the employee in question needs to be given the opportunity to say why the information in a report is incorrect.

He said a hearing for Robins was held last week and through counsel she will have an opportunity to respond before a final determination regarding her future is made.

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