Cops To Promote Alleged Camera-Grabber

FacebookA police officer who allegedly seized an arrestee’s cellphone — and never returned the video of the arrest or the phone itself — is scheduled to receive his detective’s badge Friday.

The officer, Daniel Conklin, is one of four cops in line for a promotion to detective at a 5 p.m. ceremony at City Hall.

Meanwhile, Conklin is a named defendant in a federal lawsuit claiming that he unfairly arrested a man and seized his phone after the man video-recorded him.

Officer Conklin tells a markedly different story in the police report from the incident, stating that the man resisted arrest and injured the officer’s finger by closing a door on it.

Conklin’s report does not mention the alleged seizure of the cellphone — which, if true, would appear to violate both a standing department general order as well as a promise by the police in a consent decree to stop violating citizen photographers’ rights. (Read about that here and here.) In the wake of repeated violations of that order, police officials have claimed to the Independent that they’re consistently reminding officers of it.

“I’m shocked this guy is getting promoted,” the arrestee, Dennis R. Serfilippi, a 53-year-old consultant to tech start-ups, said in an interview Wednesday. The court ended up entering a nolle prosequi in the criminal charges Conklin pressed against him.

“It’s disheartening to think that in making promotion decisions, no consideration is given to the officers’ record in terms of civil rights violations,” said John R. Williams, the attorney representing Serfilippi in his federal lawsuit.

Williams called the alleged seizure of the phone “one of the major civil rights violations here. It’s exacerbated by the fact that there’s a consent decree. This issue has supposed been addressed by the line officers. The fact that this officer allegedly violated not only a constitutional guarantee but the standing order of his own department makes you wonder what they were thinking when they made this promotion.”

The Arrestee’s Version

Contributed PhotoThe incident in question occurred near Serfilippi’s home on Elm Street near Brownell in the Edgewood neighborhood at about 2:30 p.m. this past Jan. 11.

Officer Conklin, who was sworn in four years ago, was working an extra-duty job directing traffic for a construction job. The police were temporarily blocking traffic east on Elm at that intersection to make way for large Laydon Industries vehicles.

Here’s Serfilippi’s version of what happened, as written in the amended federal court complaint dated July 14:

Serfilippi’s “aged mother” needed to get out of her driveway. The way was blocked. Meanwhile, Conklin “occupied himself socializing with the construction crew and ignor[ed] the needs of motorists.”

After watching “for a long period of time” as his mom couldn’t get out, and while Serfilippi “completely ignored the situation,” Serfilippi “stepped into the street and helped his mother get her car out of the driveway and then returned to his house.”

Having “observed this,” Conklin “became enraged and began pounding his fist” on Serfilippi’s front door, “demanding that [he] step onto the porch.” Serfilippi instructed Conklin to “get off his property.”

“Fear[ing] for his safety,” Serfilippi dialed 911 to request a police supervisor. The supervisor, Sgt. Jason Rentkowicz, arrived and instead of “protecting” him, helped arrest him.

Conklin handcuffed Sefilippi and kept him on his front lawn for about an hour while waiting for a prisoner transport van. Meanwhile, in the presence of his supervisor, Conklin “seized the plaintiff’s cellphone which contained video of the incident. The cellphone never has been returned to the plaintiff.”

The complaint charges that the cops had no warrant or probable cause to make an arrest, and that Conklin “prepared a false and malicious police report which falsely accused the plaintiff of committing the crimes of assault on a police officer (a felony), interfering with police, and disorderly conduct.” The charges were “unconditionally nolled” in Superior Court in February. Serfilippi’s subsequent suit accused Conklin and Rentkowicz of making a false arrest that violated his Fourth Amendment rights as well as state common law.

The Officer’s Version

In court filings, attorneys for the officers deny the allegations. City Assistant Corporation Counsel Michael Wolak III represents Conklin. Here’s the version Conklin offered in the police report from that day:

That afternoon on Elm Street, Laydon Industries’ crew “needed to utilize a ‘roller’ machine to tramp down loose asphalt into place. While this occurred I stopped traffic from proceeding west on Elm St. so the ‘roller machine’ could operate in a safe manner ...

“Moments later I heard an individual shouting from the area in front [of Serfilippi’s house], but I was unable to make out what was said.”

Conklin wrote that he saw Serfilippi converse with a Laydon foreman, then “enter the roadway and start shouting something at the work crew. Mr. Serfilippi then started to direct traffic in the middle of the roadway, nearly causing an accident between a sedan and the ‘roller’ machine which was in operation.”

The officer claimed that when he then approached Serfilippi and ordered him out of the street, Serfilippi “started to shout at me and stated, ‘Do your job so I don’t have to.’” The officer repeated his order to leave the street. Serfilippi complied.

The officer then asked for identification. Serfilippi said he had none on him and returned to his house. The officer followed, “requesting his name and date of birth, which he ignored.

“Mr. Serfilippi then opened his front door and began to speak with me again inside his doorway. I again reiterated that I was issuing him an infraction ticket and requested his information or a form of identification. At that point Mr. Serfilippi shouted, ‘Get an arrest warrant’ and slammed the front door with my right index finger in the doorway. This cause a significant amount of pain as well as bleeding under the nail, a broken nail, bruising, and blistering.”

The officer stated that he continued requesting, through a window, that Serfilippi come outside. Serfilippi refused and asked the officer to leave, and said he’d come out only if a supervisor arrived. So, Conklin wrote, he called in Sgt. Rentkowicz.

Conklin said that when he told Serfilippi that he had injured his finger, he “responded by informing me that he donates to the New Haven Emerald Society and pays taxes, so he is my boss and that I should not have been on his property in the first place.”

Serfilippi did come outside when Rentkowicz arrived, at which point Conklin handcuffed him and “advised him that he was under arrest. Mr. Serfilippi did not resist and complied with all my commands.” Conklin searched Serfilippi “and found no contraband or weapons.” No mention of a cellphone.

The celllphone, a Samsung, cost $700, Serfilippi said Wednesday. He said he had valuable business data stored on it.

Serfilippi’s court complaint doesn’t mention the injured finger.

“If I was in East Rock, I don’t think this guy would have done this to me. If I was a minority, I might not have had the ability to fight back,” said Serfilippi, who’s white. “If that’s what they’re doing to me, I can only imagine what this guy is doing to people who have no means.”

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posted by: T-ski1417 on December 8, 2016  5:01pm

If this incident is under investigation then you cannot deny him a promotion that he tested for. If he is guilty then the department can recind his promotion and demote him.

Just like the complaintant is innocent until proven so is he officer.

As far as the phone, was it actually seized as part of evidence. If so then he is not entitled to it until the case has been decided. If it was placed into the property room for safe keeping then he should get it back.

posted by: Sheldonblackwood09 on December 8, 2016  5:35pm

Outstanding work detective. I hope someone records the momentous occasion.

posted by: robn on December 8, 2016  6:14pm

I live in East Rock and a few years ago, after inviting an accident victim and a NHPO onto my porch out of the rain, i asked politely why he wasn’t issuing a ticket to the driver who hit the ped. The PO got in my face in a big bad, and completely unnecessary way. His gift from God that day was my willingness to let it slide.

posted by: THREEFIFTHS on December 8, 2016  8:20pm

posted by: T-ski1417 on December 8, 2016 4:01pm

If this incident is under investigation then you cannot deny him a promotion that he tested for. If he is guilty then the department can recind his promotion and demote him.

But if he is guilty he should be fired due to the fact that this man will win a lawsuit that we the taxpayers must pay out.

As far as the phone, was it actually seized as part of evidence. If so then he is not entitled to it until the case has been decided. If it was placed into the property room for safe keeping then he should get it back.

Good question.But ask you self how come the officer will not say where the phone is?

Conklin wrote that he saw Serfilippi converse with a Laydon foreman, then “enter the roadway and start shouting something at the work crew. Mr. Serfilippi then started to direct traffic in the middle of the roadway, nearly causing an accident between a sedan and the ‘roller’ machine which was in operation.”

Was this foreman call ask a witness?Also as said the case was nolle prosequi.We will see what happens.

My Bad I forgot.What do all you pro police people think about this case.

Mistrial declared in case of South Carolina officer who shot Walter Scott after traffic stop.

Notice in the video the cop drops something by the body?

I bet the jury that held back is looking for a payday.

posted by: new havener on December 8, 2016  9:52pm

Sounds bad for the young officer. The resident sounds much more believable.

The whole ‘extra-duty’ officer on road-construction thing is a scam that is driving costs and taxes up. It needs to be ramped back.

posted by: duncanidaho645 on December 8, 2016  11:41pm

Why weren’t residents notified that the street couldn’t be used at certain times? What if someone had an appointment?  Seems like contractor failed in their responsibilities.

When the officer heard shouting why didn’t he investigate? Could have easily defused the situation using some common sense and community policing skills.

The resident sounds like a real piece of work but where is the phone? Smells fishy to anyone who wants to give the officer the benefit of the doubt here.

posted by: teachermama on December 9, 2016  8:32am

That’s an odd picture to show of an officer, no?  Seems like the top photo is making more of a statement about the officer’s level of professionalism than the alleged charge.  Usually the Independent has officers in uniform.  Why is this guy only depicted wearing a ratty sweatshirt, off duty?  Is this some FB lift?

[Ed.: Yes. We didn’t have a photo of him in uniform.]

posted by: NewHavenTaxTooHigh on December 9, 2016  10:13am

Whenever I read a story with two conflicting version of events, I ask myself which party has the motivation to lie. In this case, it seems as though it’s the police officer. And John Williams is a very good attorney. I doubt he would take a case if it had little merit.

But the bigger issue here for the city taxpayers is this:  If this officer is found guilty of lying and preparing a false police report, then it questions his credibility, and any future arrests and convictions based on his work can, and likely will, be called into question by defendants. This has happened in the past; a while back former Detective Billy White was convicted of stealing money from drug dealers.

posted by: fearless on December 9, 2016  10:46am

Anyone who has had any property taken by police , especially cash , rarely get it back. My son was mugged in the 90’sand the cops retrieved everything including cash.  In the end we never got the cash.  We were told it was lost by the dept. Yes it was lost, in the pocket of a dirty cop. Most cops do the right thing. not all.  Please let us know when this case is settled. I would like Det Conklin to publicly return the phone when the case is over. I doubt it will be used in the trial It has probably been swiped clean.  BTW Cops filing false reports? Sad but true

posted by: Carl Goldfield on December 9, 2016  4:39pm

I want to second NewHavener on the extra duty scam.  These shifts add nothing to safety and merely drive up costs.  I’d argue they actually detract from safety and ironically put the officer at risk of getting hit by a car.  I remember looking into it once and it was unclear whether the law even required their presence.  On the rare occasion I’ve observed the officer even attempting to engage he or she often serves to create unnecessary traffic confusion.  Mostly they stand around either bull….ing with the workers or messing with their cell phones, completely oblivious to traffic.

Finally, when the public sees police getting paid to stand around, looking into the hole, watching someone else work, it lowers the image and respect for the job of policing.

posted by: Arod on December 10, 2016  10:41am

Thats his attitude in eastrock and as a regular officer.Now fast forward as a detective in the hill on a friday night investigating a crime.Ived lived through many years of officers like this who believe they are above the law.We saw what they did in easthaven when they were recorded to bad they didnt have cameras when malik jones was shot in fair haven as a detective his authority would increase and so would his ego.There are many people of color who are in jail because of investigation conducted by these so called detectives who tamper with evidence and even witnesses.Evidence tampering is to be taken very serious enough to merit them to delay his promotion there are probably many others with the same experiance and education who dont have the extra luguage that he has and that could prove to be a liability and you can bet when this whiteman commented he is pursuing this because he has the resource and is worry about those who dont that have been forced with the same situation to stay silent.In addition to this i say imagine a poor black or hispanic being investigated by a cop who tampered with and arrested a whiteman what hope do we have when he walks into our nieghborhood.Why put us in this situation send him to easthaven he can go hang with floodquist and his crew and harrass the hispanics over there and take thier cameras.What ever you do dont send him to the hill we have enough problems.