Conn. officer facing disciplinary hearing

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Connecticut Post Online

SEYMOUR, Conn — A veteran police officer who was recently charged with stealing a $300 computer monitor from a store that has a service contract with the Police Department is facing a disciplinary hearing for allegedly using Chief Michael Metzler's name at the same shop to receive free work on his own laptop.

The recently completed internal affairs investigation accuses Officer Jack Harkins of conduct unbecoming an officer and is being sent to the Board of Police Commissioners for a discipline hearing, according to Lt. Robert Fox, who declined to comment on the investigation.

Internal police documents obtained by the Connecticut Post show that Harkins denied the allegation in an investigation that was started with a March 9 citizen's complaint from Robert Kalish, owner of Benchmark Computers.

In his complaint, the first of three statements he would give to police, Kalish said that on or about July 5, 2005, Harkins came into the store with an IBM ThinkPad laptop computer and said it should be repaired at no charge because it belonged to Metzler.

"He said that this would impress the Police Department and in some way ensure that we would gain additional business from the department," Kalish said.

While working on the computer, Kalish said he found the name "Jack Harkins" on it and the serial number scratched off. Kalish went on to say that he decided to report the incident after someone told him Harkins had told a customer that a computer purchased from Benchmark was "highway robbery." In a second statement, Kalish told police the incident happened after he had signed a contract with Seymour police on June 30, 2005, to service the department's computers. This statement was contradicted, however, by Angelo Carlino Jr., Kalish's former business partner, who said Harkins had brought the laptop to Benchmark before the company had won the service contract. Kalish revised his statement 11 days later to say that the incident took place sometime in April 2005. Kalish and Carlino also accused Harkins, who worked part time for Benchmark last year, with stealing a computer monitor.

In an internal memo to Fox, Metzler said he had no laptop and preferred Macintosh computers. Metzler also said he was "appalled" that an officer would use his name to obtain personal services.

Harkins, who claims he sold equipment for Benchmark on commission, initially denied owning an IBM laptop in a police interview. In his signed statement, however, he said he had traded in the laptop for another computer, a contradiction that led police officials to recommend a discipline hearing. Harkins sued Metzler in 1998 for slander, invasion of privacy, and intentional infliction of emotional distress and was fired later that year. He won his job back in a January 2001 settlement agreement in which he received back wages and withdrew his lawsuit against Metzler. The agreement also stated that the town could not lay off Harkins for five years.

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