Meriden police officer suspended for 10 days without pay

MERIDEN Ct.  - A city police officer has received a 10-day suspension without pay for "conduct unbecoming an employee."
Michael Lancaster was disciplined Feb. 26. Detective Lt. Mark Walerysiak, the police spokesman, wouldn't say why Lancaster received the suspension, citing privacy concerns, but said it was related to "off-duty conduct."
The suspension has not yet been scheduled by Chief Jeffry Cossette. Cossette did not return messages left Wednesday. Detective Michael Seigler, president of the Meriden police union, said Lancaster hasn't yet chosen to grieve the suspension.
"I don't believe he wants to," Seigler said. "I think he just wants to put this behind him."
Lancaster could not be reached for comment.
Suspensions are sometimes taken a day per week over several weeks, according to Seigler, since an officer out for consecutive days of suspension costs the city more money. Suspensions can also be served by giving up vacation time, he said.
In January, former Sgt. Robii Abouchacra was demoted to officer for four months after being disciplined for conduct unbecoming an employee. In a hearing letter, dated Jan. 3, Personnel Department Director Caroline Beitman told Abouchacra that the hearing was scheduled to address "the conclusion of the investigation into your retaliation toward another officer."
Walerysiak wouldn't say whether the two instances of disciplinary action are related.
City and police officials have refused to comment on the exact reasons for Abouchacra's demotion, citing the officer's privacy. City officials have also kept silent on the identity of the other officer involved in the incident.
The police union characterized the reason for Abouchacra's demotion as "failure to quell a rumor." The officer is contesting his discipline.
The union filed a grievance in January, asking that the demotion be rescinded and lost wages restored. The union is Local 1016 of the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees, Council 15, Connecticut Council of Police.
City officials refused to release police internal affairs reports on either incident, saying they are not subject to the Freedom of Information Act since their release would constitute an invasion of the officers' privacy.
City Council Majority Leader Brian Daniels declined to comment on either case of discipline.