DUI Cop Suspended; Supporters Critical

Jessica Cole Photo Forty of police officer James Evarts’ fellow cops greeted him with applause as he entered headquarters. Two and a half hours of closed-door proceedings later, the Police Commission gave him a different message: a six-month suspension.

Evarts has served as a cop for more than 11 years. Police Chief Frank Limon asked the commission to fire Evarts because after the officer called in sick one day in July and then, hours later, was pulled over and charged with driving drunk and carrying his service weapon at the time. (He has since agreed to attend an alcohol awareness program in order to dispose of his charges.)

After the commission’s decision Thursday night, Chief Limon expressed disappointment.

“I hope that [the officers] understand that the public holds [them] to a higher standard,” he said.

The crowd of officers who hung out all night also expressed disappointment. They said he didn’t deserve the punishment and had been held to a higher standard than other cops who have gotten in trouble over the years.

Though the commission meeting was closed, officers in the hall murmured their support to Evarts whenever the chance arose. One touched his shoulder as he walked by and said, “Hang in there, buddy.” Another nodded in his direction, “Good luck, Jimmy.” All expressed their admiration for the man whom Paul Kenney, last week’s Cop of the Week, called “a true professional [who] doesn’t take his job lightly.”

“It’s a pleasure to work with a guy like that,” Kenney continued. Kenney has known Evarts throughout his career; the two have worked together on major investigations.

Most of the cops in attendance agreed that Evarts deserved discipline. But for an officer with such a long history in the force, they argued, a one-time offense like this one could have been handled internally.

“Going to the chief is one thing,” Kenney said. “Going to the commission is another.”

Sgt. Richard Miller concurred: “I think it’s extreme to come after him like this. It doesn’t really make sense…it could have been handled at the chief’s level.”

The police union lawyer, Richard Gudis, (pictured whispering into his client’s ear) agreed. When the six month suspension was announced, he told the crowd that he would immediately file a grievance and an appeal arguing that Evarts had received discipline without cause.

Sgt. Chris Rubino, an 18-year veteran who can rattle off a long list of police chiefs with whom he has worked, says that he understands Chief Limon’s decision to discipline Evarts. He added, however, that for a force that hasn’t yet formed a full opinion of the new chief, a harsh sentence could threaten internal relations. The police union recently considered, then shelved, a plan to take a no-confidence vote.

“Stuff like this [forms our opinions]: how he supports us, how he supports the officers,” Rubino said. “At the core is whether or not we have the chief’s support.”

Had the chief been successful in his quest to fire Evarts rather than simply suspend him (which is what the commission ultimately decided to do), it would have gone “a long way to put some animosity toward the new chief. This is the wrong time, wrong place, wrong person,” Rubino said.

For Chief Limon, Thursday’s commission meeting represented another step in his mission to lead the police department—and the city—to higher standards. He stated that he reviews every infraction of the rules on a case-by-case basis and considered Evarts’ violations “very serious.”

“I expect officers to be reminded that they’re held to a higher standard ... and if they don’t violate any criminal laws, they have nothing to worry about,” Limon said. Limon emphasized that this case was an individual one and that the sentence was harsher than hoped for by Evarts’ supporters but more lenient than he had recommended. In the future, he said, he will continue to “be fair and review based on the basic facts,” of a complaint.

Reiterating that he just wants his officers to “do the right thing,” Chief Limon looked out at the mass of uniformed men and women walking slowly towards the elevators.

“All I ask,” he said, “is that the officers respect the rules.”

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posted by: BillB on October 22, 2010  7:25am

Is he going to be charged with DUI? Conviction holds a mandatory one year license suspension, fine and jail time.

DUI Criminal Penalties:

First Conviction =

Prison Sentence: Either (a) up to six months with a mandatory minimum of two days or (b) up to six months suspended with probation requiring 100 hours of community service

$ 500- $ 1,000 Fine

One Year License Suspension

Per http://www.cga.ct.gov/2008/rpt/2008-r-0512.htm

posted by: the chief is right on October 22, 2010  8:22am

Sick time is not vacation time.  Sick time abuse is theft from your employer, in this case New Haven taxpayers. Punishing sick time abuse is not holding officers to a “higher standard.” In a private sector, non-union shop, these actions would have earned him immediate dismissal, rightfully so. Even if we ignore the DUI issue, it is depressing that so many officers are advocating sick time abuse.

posted by: Gener on October 22, 2010  8:33am

This is such bull. This guy should no longer be a cop. He blew it, and he should join the ranks of the unemployed while looking for a new career.
Shame on the 40 cops who showed support for this guy. This is just sickening and infuriating.
Obviously none of these police officers genuinely have a strong feelings against drunk driving.

posted by: Brian L. Jenkins on October 22, 2010  8:54am

I support police officers nationwide when they are within the law. However, it would send a hypocritical message to the taxpayers to not discipline this officer for his unfortunate indiscretion. Do I think he should have been fired? Absolutely not! In fact, I believe this ordeal has made him a better officer and as result, we all benefit.

The chief unfortunately has found himself in a quagmire. On one hand he has to present himself to the public that he is firm and in control of his department. On the other hand he has to exhibit support for his officers. So officers, try to understand his situation, and perhaps you can find it within yourselves to show a little solidarity for him too. What would you do, if you were he?

posted by: THREEFIFTHS on October 22, 2010  8:56am

Were are all of the pro police people on this.You know who your are.Crying about drunk yale students to be locked up.I don’t hear you on this one.

posted by: Steve B on October 22, 2010  9:28am

You have the chief’s support, until you drive drunk while playing hooky from work.

The fact that these officers are using an event like this as the basis of a show of solidarity is embarrassing. Evarts is getting off easy.

posted by: tell the truth on October 22, 2010  9:56am

Wake up New Haven he lied about being sick. What else would he lie on, arresting your children planting drugs or guns on them then saying he found it on them. He does not deserve to be an Officer. ... don’t trust him

posted by: Bill on October 22, 2010  10:20am

Most companies would fire someone who called in sick and was seen out and about, let alone drunk driving.

posted by: meta on October 22, 2010  11:13am

My company treats sick time and vacation time the same. If i need a personal day off for any reason (whether I’m sick or just sick and tired) I just email or call in and the day is mine. If I want to spend the day on the green taking in the sun or in the bar drinking down the pints, I’m free to do so. I’m not free to drive around drunk and neither is a police officer.

posted by: DKR on October 22, 2010  12:09pm

i guess every yet again, including our chief, is missing the big picture here. while, i do agree he has to deal with the issue of calling out sick and getting caught when he wasn’t sick, but then again,..i’m sure everyone who has posted a negative comment on here is perfect. the fact of the matter is 90% of everyone who has posted a comment on here in a negative manner has gotten behind the wheel either drunk or at least have had a drink or two. NO ONE IS PERFECT..his actions do not constitute a 6month suspension. i suggest everyone look in the mirror before you pass negative judgment and think of all the illegal/wrong/bad decisions you made…!!!!!!!!!

posted by: Paul Martin on October 22, 2010  12:09pm

Just pathetic that his fellow officers think this kind of behavior should be overlooked.

The article states that this is some kind of “higher standard.” It makes me wonder what the previous standard was.

Law enforcement cannot be above the law.

And yes, 3/5 - where are all those commenters who are always pointing the finger at local college students and justifying police brutality?

posted by: Tom on October 22, 2010  12:24pm

This is pretty appalling behavior on the part of NHPD. Most of us living in the real world would get fired on the spot for calling out of work sick then spending the day driving around drunk.

The fact that these officers have the nerve to protest the (light) punishment doled out just shows how wildly out of touch they are with the people they’re supposed to be serving.

To echo Bill B’s comment, why isn’t this guy getting charged with DUI?

posted by: notty on October 22, 2010  12:41pm

The officer should have been fired, end of story. A clear message has got to be sent to any officer that break the law. To many officers are abusing their authority. Stop whining and do what is right as the Chief stated.

posted by: MRM on October 22, 2010  12:57pm

Seriously DKR? I am all for being a bit more forgiving (something that our society in general is not very good at), but if you or me or literally most other people (other than police officers and well-connected individuals) were driving while drunk we’d likely fall under the law BillB lists below.  Further, I know that at my job, a DUI is immediate cause for dismissal, because I work with items that could be dangerous if improperly handled - I think a firearm might fall under that category (which he had on him). So, in the end, sure, let’s not make this guy out to be a monster, because such is true, he probably made a mistake that some of the rest of us is also guilty of; but don’t use that excuse to place him above the law, or above the rest of the public who might be thankful if their boss decided to suspend them for 6 months rather than firing them after lying and getting caught not only doing so, but getting a DUI from another police dept. while doing so.

posted by: SJB on October 22, 2010  2:45pm

“NO ONE IS PERFECT”

Remind me to try that one the next time I get pulled over by a New Haven cop.

...

posted by: V on October 22, 2010  4:01pm

Wow.  Cops applaud a guy who called in sick, then drove drunk?  This makes me furious.

WTF?  As a taxpayer, I say cut their benefits right now.  Make them work until 65 like the rest of us.  I have no sympathy for them.  They give all the NHPD officers a bad name.  NHPD can get their support somewhere else from now on.

posted by: john on October 22, 2010  4:06pm

After the commission’s decision Thursday night, Chief Limon expressed disappointment.

“I hope that [the officers] understand that the public holds [them] to a higher standard,” he said.

CONTRARY TO THE UNION LEADER, I VOTE MUCH CONFIDENCE IN LIMON.

posted by: DKR on October 22, 2010  6:00pm

wow,..it really amazes me to see how many perfect people are within our society. i never knew there were so many. i guess i am of the small percentage who has the guts to admit that i am not perfect and i have made my share of mistakes. this officer DOES NOT deserve to be fired or treated in such a manner that some of you have displayed. i have a hard time believing that most of the people in the private sector who say they would be fired if this happened to them. most if not all of us are afforded the opportunity an e.a.p. for help. heck, even the courts allow you driver’s ed and a clean record upon the completion of a d.u.i. class for first offenders.

posted by: juli on October 22, 2010  6:27pm

“Stuff like this [forms our opinions]: how he supports us, how he supports the officers,” Rubino said. “At the core is whether or not we have the chief’s support.”

this cop calls for the chief’s support? more like the chief turning a blind eye to dishonesty and endangering lives. driving drunk is absolutely nothing to take lightly, and lying about calling out sick just because you are drunk is shameful.

posted by: i like NHI on October 22, 2010  9:01pm

it is apparent that abuse of sick time is the main issue. to my recollection, this is the third high-profile case of a sworn officer being arrested while off on sick-pay. surely there are countless others that take the time but are not caught. i’d like to see the NHI file an FOI for annual absence rates within the NHPD. it must be an epidemic of epic proportions.
further, for every officer calling out sick, there is an officer called in for premium overtime, at either time and a half or double-time pay. not only is abuse of sick-time theft, it causes the city to pay 2.5 to 3 times the money for a shift. this hurts every single tax-payer at the benefit of the cops.
do we need to discuss a motorized officer getting caught DUI? his employment should be contingent on possessing a valid driver license.
we can also discuss why his department issued sidearm was in his possession while drunk. there are huge liability issues here.
lastly, how can an officer be effective in enforcing laws he clearly, personally, does not respect?

posted by: Blake Hawkesworth on October 23, 2010  9:31am

I agree with the chief that all officers need to respect the rules and no one is above the law.  The trouble is selective enforcement.  Right now there is a certain sergeant working the street, working extra duty and overtime.  This certain Sergeant led a brother police officer on a 10 mile chase exceeding speeds of 90mph in his personal car.  When he finally stopped he blamed the officer and called him a liar. Then he made up more lies about where he was headed and claimed not to have seen or heard lights and sirens.  Where is following the rules on this?  Why is he still on the street and not in front of the police commissioners??  The Independent needs to investigate this.

posted by: MRM on October 23, 2010  11:57am

I maintain the same position as before DKR.  I am all for this officer getting things expunged from his record after the completion of a course, and certainly some of the comments here have a tone of undue personal piety.  Additionally, if you worked at Old Navy or as an investment banker, or a number of private sector jobs a DUI would probably not get you fired if you were willing to get some help.  However, I work with potentially dangerous chemicals, my cousin works as a tug boat 1st mate, my grandfather worked as a forklift operator; all of us have/had it made clear to us that an alcohol or drug related offense will result in our termination.  As a person that is allowed to carry and use a gun (something I am ok with) and uphold laws such as the one he broke, a police officer ought to fall under the same heading. This has nothing to do with self-righteousness or people acting perfect, it has to do with public safety and perception.  I don’t deny any of the supporting officers’ claims that officer Evans is a good guy, but not only breaking the law that he would likely enforce upon any other citizen but also lying about a work day that the taxpayers of New Haven financed so that he could get drunk in Old Saybrook would warrant a firing, at the very least a suspension, and no complaining and ‘support’ from 40 officers.

posted by: Anon on October 23, 2010  12:28pm

Is this some kind of fall guy situation? Something to distract the public?

Reason I ask, was, wasn’t Limon on the scene at Elevate and didn’t a cop at that scene go into some kind of Napoleonic Steroidal rampage? Shouldn’t he be doing something about that?

posted by: Anon on October 23, 2010  12:32pm

Third officer arrested while out on sick pay?

Says something doesn’t it.

Crooks in uniform, have immunity for crookery while in uniform, on duty, performing their crookery in the course of their jobs, like tasing people to death, or trumping up charges.

Do your personal crookery, on bogus sick time and watch the chief go ballistic.

posted by: GRT on October 23, 2010  7:43pm

The Union will justify anything any union member does.  Bandy is a classic example. This show of “support” is enough of a show of the mentality of police officers nowadays, from speeding, to drunk driving, to sexual assaults, to arresting priests they can do no wrong and should not be disciplined.

This same lawyer is also the union lawyer currently involved in the East Haven PD mess. 

Again, from the rank and file to the States Attorney there is no accountability.

By the way, what happened to the gun charge?

posted by: Moe on October 25, 2010  8:11am

The chief did the right thing. If Evarts was caught once driving drunk, there’s little doubt that he’s done so before. Getting fired might be the wake-up call he needs to stop endangering his own life and the lives of others who he’s supposed to protect.

posted by: jayj on October 25, 2010  1:46pm

This is one area that should be completely outsourced!  Forty officers greeted him with applause??  Are you serious?  They are ALL an embarrassment to the badge.  If they should that level of disregard for the people they supposedly serve, then they shouldn’t serve them at all.

And they wonder why people have no respect for the law.

posted by: dana b on October 25, 2010  3:29pm

jayj(@#27) is right.  The fact that a single officer broke work rules and broke the law and endangered others is not shocking.  The fact that his fellow police officers supported him publicly and vocally is.  The NHPD should be ashamed.  The officers in support, not the man who made a bad mistake, have now undermined the whole department’s credibility with the public.  Remind me, what does the police union does for the public good?

posted by: AJD on October 26, 2010  8:36am

@DKR

Well I’ll be happy to step up as a 29 year old, who has never gotten drunk, or driven drunk.  I’ll be the one to call the cop to get fired for a DUI.  I feel that we’re way too lenient in this country about DUI.  In many places in Europe, one DUI and you loose your license for life.  I’d like to see that. Even though that’s not the law here, cops must be held to higher standards.  They’re being paid to enforce the law, which they shouldn’t do if they can’t follow it.

posted by: I've Lost All Respect on October 26, 2010  7:21pm

When I moved to New Haven 6 years ago, I had a healthy respect for the police. I can honestly say now that it is all gone. The NHPD, both rookies and veterans, continue to demonstrate contempt and blatant disregard for the laws they are hired to enforce.

Officer Bandy has had several mentions here for his cunning stunt, but we haven’t mentioned the other rookie. The fellow who rode the unregistered and uninsured motorcycle to an from the police academy every day. The same fellow, who hit a young girl crossing the street, shattering her legs, then fleeing, leaving her to her fate. Obviously another fine candidate to wear the NHPD badge, clearly he will fit right in, once the charges evaporate and the laughable penalty expires.

The NHPD desperately needs an enema. It’s no surprise that the chiefs job is a revolving door. No confidence in the chief? How about no confidence in the rank and file. Do we need any more proof? The really disturbing part in all this is the level of support for Evarts from other officers, which comes across as support for his actions, more so than support for the man himself.

I can’t help but wonder where our mayor is in all this. The man whose face is plastered all over positive police stories, is no where to seen, or heard here, leaving poor Chief Limon holding the bag, a bag that he quite clearly has no control over. The son of a cop, will always support the cops. No change can ever happen, while deSteffano pulls the strings.

This really is a tragic state of affairs, that I fear will only get much worse before it gets better. These cowboys, these crooks with badges, need to be stopped for all of our sakes. New Haven it seems, is much closer to East Haven than I first thought.

posted by: Spencer on November 10, 2010  10:30am

Stop Drunk Driving Now’s President and Founder, Ron Bellanti, gives high school students the cold hard facts on drunk driving. Ron is dedicated to helping teenagers realize the consequences of drunk driving and have them make the right decisions as well. Learn more about drunk driving prevention, statistics and how to get your school involved at http://www.stopddnow.com

Recently, Ron spoke at Londonderry High School in Londonderry, New Hampshire educating students on the perils of drunk driving. Read more on what the Derry News thought of the drunk driving prevention event at http://www.derrynews.com/londonderry/x2073120501/LHS-students-hear-cold-hard-facts


Derry Nh

Londonderry Nh News