The attorney for a New Milford police officer who filed a discrimination complaint over his treatment in the department said the severity of those allegations require an independent review.
Ridgefield lawyer Daniel Hunsberger, of Maurer & Associates, speaking on behalf of Officer Ron Young, said recently the investigation completed by town attorney Randy DiBella last month may not have garnered sufficient disclosure from department officers, who he said may have feared reprisal.
Mr. Hunsberger said he respects Mr. DiBella as an attorney, but said this type of investigation needs to be conducted by an independent, outside entity.
Mr. DiBella's role is to defend the town, Mr. Hunsberger said.
Mayor Pat Murphy said she referred the matter to Mr. DiBella because she wanted someone who could assess the allegations and make recommendations on how the town should proceed.
The mayor said Mr. DiBella did advise police Chief Shawn Boyne to refer a separate internal investigation of Officer Young's job performance to an independent agency, given the existence of the discrimination complaint.
Officer Young's discrimination allegations were filed with both the police union and the state Commission on Human Rights and Opportunities. The town has hired separate counsel to defend the CHRO complaint.
Mr. Hunsberger said Officer Young intends to wait for the CHRO results before pursuing other options related to his allegations against the town.
CHRO officials have said these cases can take as much as a year to conclude.
Mayor Murphy said she is satisfied with Mr. DiBella's report and recommendations, and sees no need to refer the matter elsewhere.
Over six weeks, Mr. DiBella interviewed 23 police officers, including commanders, and outside law enforcement officials.
He determined from those inquiries there had been no discrimination and Officer Young had been given equal opportunities.
Officer Young, a 14-year department veteran, is one of two black officers in the department.
Mr. DiBella suggested the department impose mandatory diversity training and future interview panels be as diverse as possible. New Milford police officers stated racial bias and harassment are not, and will not, be tolerated, Mr. DiBella said.
In his role as town attorney, Mr. DiBella said it is his duty to investigate such a serious complaint. He said he conducted a fair, impartial investigation with appropriate recommendations.
Mr. DiBella said his integrity "has never been questioned by anyone."
"What is (Mr. Hunsberger) saying? That they all lied to me?" Mr. DiBella said. "My response is that all of these officers were honest, straightforward and very professional. And I don't think they are liars, not any of them."