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    Officers in Albany, New York to be reprimanded after showing up to work intoxicated

    ALBANY, N.Y.-- Two city police officers recently showed up for work while allegedly impaired by alcohol, in direct violation of the department's new zero-tolerance policy, sources said.

    Sources familiar with an ongoing internal investigation identified one of the officers as William Bonanni, whose career has been marked by controversy.

    A supervisor briefly allowed both officers, one of whom allegedly tested as legally intoxicated, to work before being sent home, the sources said.

    One was put on desk duty, the other on patrol.

    The supervisor, Sgt. Joseph Pickel, then allegedly waited days to report the incident to department brass, hampering their ability to quickly sanction the officers, sources said.

    Chief James W. Tuffey said Wednesday he was "very disturbed" by the allegations but declined to discuss many details.

    No officers have been disciplined or charged in connection with the incident, Tuffey said, but he confirmed an internal investigation is under way by the agency's Office of Professional Standards.

    When the incident was finally reported to Assistant Chief Steven Krokoff, he forwarded the information to Deputy Chief Stephen Reilly who then notified the chief, sources said. Tuffey confirmed he immediately dispatched internal affairs detectives to investigate.

    Asked whether the delay in reporting the matter was an issue, Tuffey said: "I think if you know me, it's an issue."

    The chief said state Civil Service privacy laws prevent him from naming the officers involved.

    But several sources familiar with the incident identified the officers under investigation as Bonanni and Glenn Szelest, who are both patrol officers assigned to North Station in Arbor Hill.

    Investigators also are examining Pickel's handling of the incident.

    Departmental sources said the incident took place on a weekend evening a couple of weeks ago, when Bonanni and Szelest allegedly reported for work late.

    Pickel, their supervisor, confronted them and demanded they file a report documenting their tardiness. The officers allegedly became argumentative. Pickel then asked both to take breath-alcohol tests. Sources said one officer allegedly tested to be legally intoxicated and the other legally impaired.

    Both officers had apparently driven to work.

    A departmental policy enacted several months ago forbids officers from consuming any alcohol within eight hours of reporting for duty. Officers who violate the provision can be sent home.

    The night in question, Pickel allegedly assigned one officer he suspected of being intoxicated to a desk position. The other, whom the supervisor believed might have been impaired, was on patrol but it's not clear if he was allowed to drive a police car.

    Pickel later removed both officers from duty, sources said.

    Pickel joined the department in 1992 and Szelest in 1994.

    Bonanni, who has spent nearly six of his 15 years on the job on administrative leave or suspension, returned to work about a year ago after missing 12 months during an internal investigation and grand jury review of his role in the controversial 2003 shooting death of David Scaringe, a to a police chase.

    Bonanni was one of the officers who fired on a fleeing car in a crowded intersection on New Year's Eve. Bonanni's bullet did not kill Scaringe and he was reinstated under Chief James E. Turley, who Tuffey replaced last December weeks after Bonanni returned to duty.

    In 1999, a jury cleared Bonanni and another officer of assault charges after an off-duty incident in which a College of Saint Rose student, Jermaine Henderson, alleged he had been beaten.

    Both incidents prompted legal settlements. The $1.3 million Scaringe settlement was the largest in the city's history.

    This latest investigation comes as the department is less than a week from landmark changes in the department's command structure that Tuffey has said will bring needed accountability after a series of high-profile incidents have tarnished its reputation.

    Tuffey has said he wants more commanders in the field supervising officers.

    It's part of sweeping changes Tuffey has enacted in his first year, including the zero-tolerance alcohol policy.

    The policy was enacted after the death of Detective Kenneth P. Wilcox, who was killed April 26 in an on-duty crash. Wilcox, 39, who had been drinking at an Albany night club in the hours before work, was not impaired when he died but had a blood-alcohol level of 0.03 percent.

    The strict alcohol policy, which mirrors those of many federal law enforcement agencies, was put in place at a time when the force was reeling from alcohol-related crashes involving its off-duty officers in the past two years.

    In June, an Albany police sergeant was arrested on charges of driving while intoxicated after his car struck another vehicle being driven by an off-duty officer from the Rensselaer Police Department. Sgt. Vincent P. Foley, 38, was arrested after allegedly refusing to submit to a blood alcohol test.

    Officer Robert Schunk was charged with drunken driving after he crashed his personal car into two parked cars on South Allen Street in April 2005 while off duty. Schunk later pleaded guilty to a reduced charge of driving while ability impaired and returned to duty.

    In 2004, Officer Greg Krikorian was arrested for DWI after he crashed his car on Interstate 787, igniting a fire that later burned down an apartment building as he backed the vehicle into a garage in Green Island. He pleaded guilty to DWAI.

    Tuffey said the delay in reporting the recent allegations has hampered the investigation.

    "If we knew about it immediately we would've taken action immediately," he said.

    The chief said the investigation is ongoing and he did not rule out internal disciplinary charges being lodged.

    "I'm being briefed on it every day," he said. "It happened a couple weeks ago. ... I will take the appropriate measures that need to be taken."

    Lt. Dennis Dolan, head of the union that represents sergeants and lieutenants, declined to comment Wednesday, citing a policy not to comment on ongoing internal investigations.

    "Once an investigation is closed and the chief has made his determinations, it's conceivable we might have a comment on it," Dolan said.

    Christian Mesley, head of the Albany Police Officers Union, could not be reached.

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    If its true then they need to be dealt with very harshly. I will leave it at that.
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