At their January 7 meeting, Police Commission members accepted the retirement of sergeants Darlene Froehlich and John Cole. In her letter of resignation, Sgt Froehlich cited a “cruel work environment” and “hatred” within the department as prompting her decision to retire.
Ms Froehlich, 55, joined the police department in July 1984. Mr Cole, 52, joined the organization in January 1989. The full-pension vesting period for town police officers is 25 years.
In a December 26 e-mail to Carole Ross, the town’s human resources director, Ms Froehlich retired from the police department, effective January 6.
At their January 7 session, Police Commission members removed from their agenda the consideration of disciplinary action against Ms Froehlich, which had been the subject of three closed disciplinary hearings during the preceding several weeks. Ms Froehlich requested that those hearings be held in closed session.
Police officials have not disclosed the incidents which resulted in Police Chief Michael Kehoe having disciplinary hearings held against Ms Froehlich before the Police Commission. The Police Commission rules on police disciplinary matters in which the penalties for an officer range from a nonpaid work suspension exceeding 15 days up to termination of employment.
In her letter of resignation, Ms Froehlich wrote, in part, “It is with great sadness that I have come to the realization that I must retire from the Newtown Police Department on Monday, January 6, 2014. For financial reasons, my goal was to work well beyond my 30 years. Due to the cruel work environment and hatred expressed to me by Chief Kehoe and staff, I have had to make the decision to leave.”
Following the January 7 session, neither Chief Kehoe nor Police Commission Chairman Paul Mangiafico had any comment on Ms Froehlich’s letter.
Asked to explain her comments in the letter, Ms Froehlich responded via e-mail, “The police department has made a cruel work environment and I will expand on this. For several years, I became the subject of personal attacks, excessive criticism, and disparate treatment. I was also the target of false information that was never corrected, isolation, and I was removed from the communication loop of the command staff.”
She added, “Immediately following the Sandy Hook tragedy, I worked many hours for many months. I was there for the department when officers were not present and healing from December 14th. I have enjoyed serving the Town of Newtown and its people for nearly three decades, and to have to come to work every day knowing that the administration did not support my efforts was disheartening.”
Ms Froehlich said, “At the end of 2013, as we approached the holidays and the first anniversary of the Sandy Hook tragedy, I was tossed to the curb like trash. I was left on the outside looking in.
“I know I will certainly miss working at the schools and providing the children, parents and educators with a sense of security. The assignment brought back many fond memories of my two sons when they were young. I will especially miss the sense of humor of the security staff and the high fives and hugs from the children,” she said.
Mr Mangiafico had no comment on Ms Froehlich’s remarks.
Chief Kehoe could not immediately be reached for comment.
Newtown Police Union President Scott Ruszczyk had no comment on Ms Froehlich’s statement about her work at the police department.
Besides police union representation at the disciplinary hearings, Ms Froehlich was represented by a private attorney.
At the January 7 Police Commission session, commission members accepted Mr Cole’s letter of retirement, effective February 1.
Mr Cole has not been at work since November. Initially, he received a requested unpaid leave of absence from the Police Commission, after which he was in the process of exhausting his remaining time-off fringe benefits before his February 1 retirement date.
On November 16, Mr Cole was at the Interlaken Inn in the Lakeville section of Salisbury with a group of Newtown police officers at an event that was held to honor the first responders to the December 2012 shooting incident at Sandy Hook School.
While Mr Cole was in a hotel room with his wife Ellen Lee Cole, she allegedly got Mr Cole’s .45-caliber Glock semiautomatic police pistol and fired it, with a bullet entering the room’s wall, according to state police. There were no injuries.
State police charged Ms Cole with illegal discharge of a firearm, disorderly conduct, and third-degree criminal mischief. She has not entered pleas to those charges, all of which are misdemeanors. She was scheduled to appear again on those charges on January 16 in Bantam Superior Court.
Mr Cole was not charged in the Lakeville incident.
Mr Mangiafico had no comment on the incident that occurred between the Coles in Lakeville.
With the retirement of two patrol sergeants from the police department, the Police Commission will need to promote two police officers to the rank of sergeant.
The Police Commission has a list of three patrol officers who have qualified for possible promotion to the rank of sergeant from whom they will select two people to replace Ms Froehlich and Mr Cole.
The 45-member police department normally has seven sergeants — six patrol sergeants and one administrative sergeant.