After interviewing five officers during a special meeting Sept. 25, the Police Commission dismissed a case concerning allegations that Chief Paul Fitzgerald mishandled an investigation involving a child sex predator.
Berlin resident Michael Rogan, in a letter he addressed to the police commissioners, alleges Fitzgerald has a “personal vindictive agenda” against him.
Rogan’s letter stems from an investigation that involved his 8-year-old daughter, which led to the arrest of a 29-year-old Wallingford man, Charles Ofori, of 13 Brookview Ave., on Aug. 29.
“Based on our discussion and the questioning of the witness, we (the police commission, in an unanimous decision) find that the allegations submitted by Mr. Rogan against Chief Fitzgerald are baseless, and this matter is closed,” said Joseph Annunziata, Police Commission chairman.
Rogan asserts the investigation was not handled in a timely manner. Also, he alleges there was a department cover up.
According to an arrest warrant, on the evening of July 17 the Berlin Police Department was notified by Rogan after he and his wife were made aware of an exchange of text messages between Ofori and the juvenile girl.
The predator attempted to entice the child into sending pictures of herself after she made it clear she was only 8-years-old.
According to the arrest warrant, Officer Scott Calderone responded to the call. After speaking with Rogan and his wife, the case was taken over by the detective bureau for further investigation. The juvenile’s cell phone was retrieved and brought back to the department where detectives began texting Ofori disguised as the child.
“From there Officer Calderone worked expediently and tirelessly in unison with Detective Doug Bartolomeo and Detective Shawn Solek,” Rogan’s letter states. “In a matter of days they were able to track down the identity of the suspect as well as make contact with him. Truly outstanding and amazing work by these devoted professionals.”
According to Rogan, that is when the case began to slow down.
Rogan claims Fitzgerald, Lt. James Gosselin and Sgt. Christopher Tralli pressured Calderone to “alter” his initial police report by adding a supplement that states “DCF was not notified at this time.”
Fitzgerald said he did not order any of his officers or detectives to contact the Department of Children and Families.
But Calderone was instructed by Tralli and Gosselin to add the supplement to the report.
“It was a strange request,” Calderone said, adding that in all of his 30 years (as a police officer) he was never asked, “did you contact DCF?”
Calderone said when he initially spoke with Rogan on scene, nothing led him to believe DCF needed to be notified. However, Calderone said he initially felt the child was in danger, since the child gave Ofori her real address and name.
After further investigation by Solek and Tralli, both said they did not believe the child was in danger.
Solek, lead investigator, said he contacted DCF for general information, and if the police department should seek proper counseling for the child.
According to Gosselin and Tralli, the call to DCF was anonymous and no names were used. Solek said he felt there was no need to file a report with DCF.
“It wasn’t a referral to DCF,” Solek said.
Calderone, Tralli said, was advised to add the supplement in order to document every step of the investigation. Fitzgerald said it is not uncommon for an officer to be ordered to add a supplement to a report by a supervisor.
Detective Solek filed for a warrant for the arrest of Ofori with the New Britain GA 15 courthouse before Solek left for vacation. Due to information that needed to be corrected, the warrant was held up in court. Solek refiled for a warrant once back from vacation on Aug. 17.
In his letter, Rogan asked why Fitzgerald did not intervene and assist with the warrant.
“An active child predator had not yet been arrested and still was on the loose....Absolutely deplorable and unconscionable, that the chief of police would further endanger the safety and life of my 8-year-old daughter, just so that he could get the satisfaction of striking back at me once more,” Rogan wrote.
When asked by the Police Commission why he did not intervene to expedite the arrest warrant, Fitzgerald said “In 37 years of law enforcement I never intervened on a warrant.”
During the special meeting, Solek said only the detective who filed for the warrant can sign off on any changes.
On Aug. 29, Ofori was charged with attempt to commit enticing a minor by computer and risk of injury to a child, according to the arrest warrant. Ofori entered a not-guilty plea to the charges. He was released on $25,000 bond and is scheduled to appear in New Britain Superior Court on Oct 29.
Commissioner Bradford Parsons said he is disappointed the letter misrepresents the overall professionalism and conduct of the department and the chief, “which we feel is a grave injustice.”
“We apologize for you having to go through this,” Parsons said to Fitzgerald, “but the refreshing result of all the interviews we conducted is that we know resolutely that proper procedures were followed with the utmost professionalism, and care and concern for that young child was demonstrated throughout this entire case.”
“Obviously he has animosity towards me and I think the letter indicates that,” Fitzgerald said during the special meeting, adding that several years ago Rogan testified in front of the police commission regarding a neighborhood dispute.
“He’s been upset with the police department and possibly myself directly ever since,” Fitzgerald said. “With Mr. Rogan threatening a lawsuit, I really don’t want to get into a contest of my statements versus his statements. I have no animosity towards the man. He feels that there is, so and I can’t change his mind.”
In his letter, Rogan also demanded that the police commission investigate the conduct of Gosselin and Tralli and threatened to pursue a lawsuit against the department if action was not taken against Fitzgerald.