Albany – On Monday May 1st, New York Attorney General Eric T. Schneiderman announced the arrest of Leslie Klein, Chief of the Galway Police Department; Mark LaViolette, a Sergeant in the Galway Police Department; David Goodwin, a Sergeant in the Galway Police Department; and Mark Kirker, a Deputy in the Schenectady County Sheriff’s Office, for allegedly falsifying documents filed with the New York State Division of Criminal Justice Services (DCJS), falsely documenting that certain officers either successfully and properly completed their required period of supervised field training or successfully and properly completed a Field Training Officer Instructor course. The arrests are the culmination of a year-and-a-half investigation – dubbed “Operation Training Day” – by the Attorney General’s Public Integrity Bureau.
“Every public official has a fundamental responsibility to uphold the law and protect the trust New Yorkers place in them. As we allege, these officers falsified training records — jeopardizing public safety, violating the public trust, and breaking the law,” said Attorney General Schneiderman. “We’ll continue to take on public corruption across New York to ensure that those who betray the public trust are held to account.”
Today’s felony complaint charges Klein with three counts of Offering a False Instrument for Filing in the First Degree (a Class E felony), LaViolette and Goodwin with three counts of Offering a False Instrument for Filing in the First Degree (a Class E felony), and Kirker with one count of Offering a False Instrument for Filing in the First Degree (a Class E felony). The defendants were arraigned today in Albany City Court before Hon. Gary F. Stiglmeier.
An individual seeking to become a certified police officer in New York State is required to attend a police academy and complete a Basic Course for Police Officers (“BCPO”) that is comprised of academic and skills training, in conjunction with a supervised field training period. Rookie officers are required to complete 160 hours of supervised field training. Any individuals who were former police officers in New York State who have been separated from service for greater than four years but less than ten years may again become certified police officers in New York State by attending a police academy and completing an approved Police Refresher Course that also includes 80 hours of supervised field training. During a supervised field training period, a Field Training Officer (“FTO”) is assigned to a probationary officer and must physically observe (ride along with) and evaluate the probationary officer and document his/her findings on Daily Observation Reports (“DOR”). Since January 2015, an individual is required to successfully complete a 28-hour Police Field Training Officer Course in order to be an FTO.
Upon the successful completion of supervised field training, a Supervised Field Training Orientation and Review Evaluation Summary — indicating whether the officer passed or failed — is signed by the FTO, the probationary officer, the chief executive officer of the police department, and the Police Academy Director where the probationary officer completed the BCPO or Police Refresher Course. This document, which is based on and supported by the DORs, is filed with DCJS in order to prove that a probationary officer has completed his/her supervised field training and should be issued his/her certification.
As prosecutors allege, these requirements were not followed for two rookie police officers (Police Officer 1 and Police Officer 2) and a former police officer in New York State (Mark LaViolette), all of whom were seeking to become certified police officers in the Galway Police Department.
In the case of Police Officer 1, Chief Klein was the FTO responsible for the required 160 hours of supervised field training. As alleged in the complaint, this supervised field training is purported to be documented on 21 DORs spanning from October 31, 2014 through December 10, 2014; however, Klein did not observe Police Officer 1 during the times documented on the DORs – meaning that a Supervised Field Training Orientation and Review Evaluation Summary, which falsely reported that the supervised field training was successfully and properly completed, was filed with DCJS. The Galway Police Department’s patrol records did not support the claim that Police Officer 1 worked 160 hours from October 2014 through December 2014, and Police Officer 1 himself indicated that Klein did not ride with and observe him during the times documented on the DORs. Instead, as the complaint details, Police Officer 1 was simply instructed to fill out enough DORs to satisfy his training requirements and leave the sheets at the police department for Klein to sign. Klein also admitted to investigators that he did not always ride with or observe officers on field training, including Police Officer 1; instead, Klein admitted that he simply signed paperwork left on his desk.
It is alleged that a similar practice was also followed for Mark LaViolette, who was both taking the Police Field Training Officer Course in order to supervise probationary officers and completing his own probationary officer training to join the Galway Police Department. In order for LaViolette to complete his supervised field training in Galway, the department needed to first have an officer successfully complete a 28-hour Police Field Training Officer course. According to DCJS records, this course was purportedly taught to Goodwin and LaViolette by Mark Kirker on October 1, 2, 8, and 9, 2015, from 8am to 4pm on each day. It is alleged that a Class Roster/ Notification of Completion — which falsely reported that LaViolette and Goodwin successfully completed all 28 hours of instruction — was filed with DCJS. However, the Attorney General’s investigation uncovered through various records and through statements by Kirker that LaViolette and Goodwin allegedly did not properly receive all 28 hours of required instruction. For instance, it is alleged that Goodwin was not physically present in New York State on three of the days; that LaViolette was working as the Director of Emergency Management in Schenectady from 7am to 3pm on each of the days; and that Kirker indicated to an employee at DCJS performing an administrative inquiry of the course that he did not teach several necessary components of the course.
After the Police Field Training Officer course was purportedly completed by LaViolette and Goodwin, LaViolette reported his probationary supervised field training as occurring on ten days from October 24, 2015 to November 16, 2015; Goodwin is listed as the FTO on each DOR that supports this supervised field training. It is alleged that a Supervised Field Training Orientation and Review Evaluation Summary filed with DCJS falsely reported that the required 80 hours of supervised field training was successfully and properly completed. As alleged, similar to the practice followed for Police Officer 1, Goodwin did not actually supervise LaViolette during the field training period. In addition to the lack of support in the Galway patrol records for LaViolette working on the days documented in his DORs, various records reviewed by investigators indicate that Goodwin was not physically present in New York State on six of the days he was reported as physically observing LaViolette on supervised field training as an FTO.
Finally, it is alleged that this practice continued with the supervised field training period for rookie Police Officer 2. Although Police Officer 2 had some prior law enforcement experience, he was required to complete 160 hours of supervised field training. Police Officer 2’s supervised field training is documented on nineteen DORs spanning from February 25, 2016 to March 31, 2016, and LaViolette is listed as the responsible FTO. Again, it is alleged that a Supervised Field Training Orientation and Review Evaluation Summary — which falsely reported that the required 160 hours of supervised field training were successfully and properly completed — was filed with DCJS. It is alleged that it was not possible for LaViolette to supervise Police Officer 2 as an FTO based on information obtained from various records, including Galway patrol records and time and attendance records from Schenectady County, as well as information received from Police Officer 2. Police Officer 2 indicated that LaViolette never rode with, observed, or supervised him during his supervised field training period. Instead, Police Officer 2 was allegedly instructed — in this case by Goodwin — to fill out the DORs himself, list LaViolette as the FTO, and leave the forms for LaViolette to sign. The complaint filed in court also alleges that LaViolette stated that he did not physically supervise Police Officer 2 during a conversation he had with an executive in Schenectady County.
The charges are merely accusations and the defendants are presumed innocent unless and until proven guilty in a court of law.
Attorney General Schneiderman thanks the New York State Division of Criminal Justice Services for their valuable assistance in this investigation.
This case is being prosecuted by Assistant Attorney General Matthew Peluso of the Attorney General’s Public Integrity Bureau with the assistance of Senior Legal Analyst Sara Pogorzelski, under the supervision of Bureau Chief Daniel G. Cort and Deputy Bureau Chief Stacy Aronowitz. The Criminal Justice Division is led by Executive Deputy Attorney General Margaret Garnett.
The investigation was conducted by Investigator Mitchell Paurowski of the Attorney General’s Investigations Bureau, under the supervision of Deputy Chief Investigator Antoine Karam. The Attorney General’s Investigations Division is led by Chief Investigator Dominick Zarrella. Forensic accounting was performed by Principal Forensic Auditor Jason Blair. The Forensic Audit Section is led by Chief Auditor Edward J. Keegan and Deputy Chief Auditor Sandy Bizzarro.