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Police Officer Receives Criminal Charges


This is a case of appeal being heard in the Second Department, Appellate Division of the Supreme Court of the state of New York. The appellant in the matter is Charles O. Sharkey. The respondents in the matter are the Police Department of the town of South Hampton, et al.

The petitioner is appealing a decision that was made by the Supreme Court of Suffolk County on the 18th of December, 1989. The Suffolk County Supreme Court dismissed the case, which was a review of a determination that was made by the Police Department in the town of South Hampton. The Police Department had terminated the petitioner’s employment after he pleads guilty to the misdemeanor charge of driving while intoxicated.

Case Background and Discussion

Charles O. Sharkey, the petitioner, was a police officer for the Town of South Hampton. While he was not on duty Sharkey was involved in an automobile accident. The accident took place on the 16th of August, 1987. The record for the case does not reveal anything about the accident except that one person died and another was seriously injured.

Sharkey was indicted for the accident and charged with second degree vehicular assault, second degree vehicular manslaughter, criminally negligent homicide, and two counts of driving while intoxicated (DWI). The defendant pled guilty to one misdemeanor count of driving while intoxicated and this satisfied the indictment.

The Patrolmen’s Benevolent Association is the union that represented the petitioner in the case. The Town of South Hampton demanded arbitration to determine whether or not the petitioner could be discharged from his position as a police officer. Based upon the plea of guilty the town terminated his employment based on the Public Officer’s Law section 30. The petitioner challenged this decision in an instant CPLR article 78 proceeding. The town’s determination was upheld.

In case law it is typically provided that if the crime in question relates to the duties of the office held, the crime violates the oath of office. The reason for this is that it gives the public the confidence to trust the moral integrity of police officers.

However, in this particular case the officer was off duty at the time of the accident. The court declines to hold that the crime committed establishes conduct that is intimately related to his official duties as a police officer. The records for the instant case fail to disclose the nature of the officer’s duties or explain any of the circumstances that surrounded the accident. It was found that the accident could not have been avoided by the petitioner and there was not enough evidence to take away his license.

Court Decision

After reviewing the case the court orders that the judgment to dismiss the case is reversed with costs. The petition is granted and the respondents will reinstate the petitioner’s employment. The matter will be sent back to the Supreme Court of Suffolk County for calculation of the back pay and interest that the petitioner is owed and for an entry of the appropriate judgment in the matter.

One of the judges hearing the case dissents from this determination and feels that the officer did violate the officer’s oath to office.

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