A city police officer starts a five- day suspension without pay today as punishment for placing a choke hold on a teenager he says he suspected of carrying drugs.
The officer, a veteran of the department for 7 1/2 years, was found guilty of officious behavior by the police department's internal trial review board last month.
The same board cleared him of a second charge of conduct unbecoming an officer. He could not be reached for comment Monday. He will be eligible to return to work at midnight Saturday, Deputy Police Chief Ronald E. Lee said.
Department regulations define officious behavior as engaging in "any cruel or unjust use of authority" or exhibiting "harshness or severity in the discharge of duty."
The officer's punishment was decided by police Chief George R. Aylward, who reviewed similar cases in the department's history, Lee said.
The maximum punishment could have been a suspension of up to 10 days.
Lee said the punished officer is a dedicated officer. He believed the punishment was just.
"This discipline in no way says he is not a capable police officer," Lee said. "But we will do whatever we can to bring him back in line and hopefully this will accomplish that."
The mother, whose 16-year-old son was involved in the incident, was less then [sic] pleased with the chief's decision.
By clearing the officer on the charge of conduct unbecoming an officer, the mother said the department is sending a bad message to the people of Middletown."I think this reinforces the attitude many young people have toward the police," she said. "Is this the kind of conduct you can expect from an officer?"
The incident that led to the suspension took place June 5.
The officer said he put 16-year-old teenager in a choke hold because he suspected he was trying to conceal cocaine by swallowing it, according to the officer's report.
No drugs were found and the teenager was not charged. The mother believes the officer started choking her son because the officer was frustrated.