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June 2, 2014

New Albany council questions police chief about NAPD investigations

Humphrey cited in three different cases

NEW ALBANY — New Albany Police Chief Todd Bailey was greeted with questions about the handling of allegations against the NAPD during his first appearance before the City Council since again being chosen to lead the department.

Councilwoman Diane McCartin-Benedetti complimented Bailey and the city for requesting the Indiana State Police investigate allegations made by NAPD patrol officer Laura Schook.

The public wants to know more “just with the accusations going, whether they’re true or false,” Benedetti said.

In March, Schook presented the New Albany Merit Commission with complaints dating back to 2010. She claimed that officer Gary Humphrey, co-owner of River City Winery, and Jon Tucker, owner of Jon Tucker Photography, were padding their timesheets and working on their private businesses while they were on the department time clock.

Schook went on to claim that then-NAPD Maj. Sherri Knight — who was reassigned from chief to the department’s detective’s division last month — informed Tucker and Humphrey of her complaints and did not seek punishment against them.

As a result, Schook claimed she was alienated by coworkers, declined promotions and left without backup on service calls.

Through her attorney, Schook has filed notice of a tort claim against the city worth $500,000. The 19-year NAPD veteran is also requesting a promotion.

Bailey confirmed Friday that he had requested the ISP investigate the claims.

“We thought that from an ethical point of view, it was the right way to go,” Bailey, who served as chief from October of 2010 through 2012, told the council Monday.

However, Humphrey was also named in other investigations regarding his conduct, and council members said more steps need to be taken to ensure public confidence in the department remains strong.

Though not many details have been released by authorities, Humphrey was named in an April 24 incident report. He allegedly broke into a residence connected to the downtown New Albany restaurant Bread and Breakfast. The NAPD and ISP have declined to release the incident reports to the News and Tribune.

A Floyd County grand jury was summoned to review the case, but returned a no bill of indictment, which means no charges were issued.

An incident reported by the News and Tribune Monday concerned Councilman John Gonder.

During a Dec. 18 screening of the film “New Albany: City by the River” at The Grand theater, NAPD was called to respond to an altercation between Humphrey and Miranda Becht, who was an organizer of the event and is the girlfriend of one of the filmmakers.

According to the incident report, Becht struck Humphrey during the altercation, but no arrests were made.

Becht told officers that after she struck him, Humphrey threw her to the floor.

The incident started when Becht asked the mother of a child who was playing in the theater to remove the child, according to the report.

After the mother and child left the theater Humphrey approached Becht and was “verbally abusive” toward her, Becht told police.

A copy of the surveillance video taken at The Grand and in the possession of the NAPD was requested by the News and Tribune, but has not been provided.

Gonder said he spoke with Becht following the altercation — Becht was diagnosed with a sprained shoulder after seeking treatment — and that she was “very intimidated by the process.”

Becht said residents shouldn’t feel afraid to report a crime or an allegation against an officer.

While Bailey said the ISP request was spawned by Schook’s allegations, he added that the other matters are under investigation and that more information should be known soon.

Councilman Dan Coffey said the city should be more transparent when dealing with matters that involve allegations against police officers.

Gonder and Coffey emphasized they aren’t assuming the officers are guilty of any wrongdoing.

Bailey said he will provide more information to the council in the coming weeks about the investigations.

No voting items

The council received an update on the status of the Ohio River Greenway, but had no ordinances or resolutions up for consideration Monday.

The next regular meeting for the council is scheduled for 7:30 p.m. June 19.

 

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