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08/24/2022 04:00 PM

OS Police Officer Resigns After Allegations of Inappropriate Conduct

The Old Saybrook police officer who was suspended earlier this year for his reported involvement in a bar fight has resigned following an internal investigation showing he had admitted to participating in sexual acts while on duty and intentionally damaged department property.

Earlier this summer, Old Saybrook Police Officer Tyler Schulz was reinstated following a 90-day unpaid suspension for allegedly choking one person and pushing another while intoxicated at an Essex restaurant in February.

Schulz was cleared to resume his duties in July. However at the Aug. 22 Police Commission meeting, Old Saybrook Police Chief Michael Spera announced that Schulz had resigned from the department, and that the department and Schulz had entered into a separation agreement.

A copy of an Aug. 3 letter from Spera to the Commission as well as a copy of the separation agreement was made available to the Harbor News. In the letter, Spera wrote that following Schulz’s reinstatement in early July, the department continued an internal investigation into Schulz’s alleged engagement in inappropriate conduct while on-duty and required him to answer questions in writing as well as an interview.

Spera wrote that Schulz handed in sworn statements “one minute prior to the assignment’s due date and time at 5 p.m. on July 15, 2022.” After a requested interview was rescheduled three times, Spera wrote that the interview was finally conducted on July 28 with Schulz and a union attorney present.

“During the interview Mr. Schulz was asked about inconsistencies found between his responses to the interrogatories provided under oath and evidence collected as well as statements made by witnesses/victims concerning the investigation. Once I learned that Mr. Schulz had been untruthful under oath and admitted to participating in sexual acts while on duty and found evidence of him tampering with automatic vehicle locator (AVL) equipment to conceal his whereabouts while on duty, I directed that he be placed on paid administrative leave,” Spera stated in part.

Following that meeting, Spera was preparing to recommend that Schulz be fired when a police union’s representative reached out to convey that Schulz desired to resign from the department.

Spera wrote that First Selectman Carl Fortuna was notified and that Fortuna authorized the labor counsel to prepare a separation agreement.

“I then contacted labor counsel and requested a separation agreement be prepared based on the terms authorized by the First Selectman,” Spera wrote.

The separation agreement was signed on Aug. 3. Per the agreement, the department accepted the resignation of Schulz with a last day of Aug. 5. The ownership of the K-9 Chase transferred from the town to Schulz.

Schulz agreed to waive his rights to file any labor or civil action against the town or its employees apart from the ability to file for unemployment benefits. All parties also agreed to not disparage each other.

The department also agreed not to release the internal investigation, with the exception of Spera’s letter to the commission and the separation agreement “(a)s it contains highly sensitive material that Mr. Schulz and others involved, including victims and witnesses, would find to be highly offensive and unfairly damaging to their personal reputations, unless so ordered by a state administrative agency,” according to Spera.

Additionally, Spera said that he will be forwarding a request to the Police Officer Standards and Training Council that Schulz’s State of Connecticut Police Officer Certification be revoked.

In closing, Spera wrote, “Please know that the captain and I take our respective roles to ensure the integrity of our agency very seriously. I will simply not tolerate lying under oath and other serious workplace conduct violation from any employee.”

Police Commission chairperson Alfred Wilcox declined to comment on the story while attempts to reach Schulz through his former union attorney were not successful. Fortuna also did not respond to a request to comment by press time. Spera declined to comment about the case beyond making his letter to the Commission available to the Harbor News.

Prior to the disciplinary action taken against him, Schulz was the K-9 coordinator for the department. At the Aug. 22 police commission meeting Spera said the department would look into getting another K-9 to replace Chase and that he would revise the rules of engagement for how the K-9 could be used.

“I would expect that I will appoint a new K-9 handler in accordance with the Collective Bargaining Agreement with in the next several weeks. However, we will need to wait till the next certification course to be scheduled for the new handler to attend,” Spera told the Harbor News after the meeting. Spera said that the new dog would be purchased using existing funds.

Earlier Incident

The resignation of Schulz is the latest update in what has been a highly publicized and tumultuous six months for the former officer.

On March 3, Schulz was charged with breach of peace in the second degree after witnesses said he choked a man and pushed another while intoxicated at Essex restaurant Scotch Plains Tavern in February. Schulz was placed on paid administrative leave and the subject of an internal investigation by the police department.

According to an affidavit written by Connecticut State Trooper Mark Roberts, shortly after midnight on Feb. 27, an employee of Scotch Plains Tavern in Essex called 911 to report a bar fight between a large group of people.

After viewing security footage of the incident, Roberts wrote he observed one man “forcefully shove/strike [the other man] backward on the shuffle board table.” According to a witness who was later questioned, the man in the video was identified as Schulz.

After further investigation, Roberts wrote that one alleged victim said that he and Schulz had a close relationship until fairly recently. The victim reported to Roberts that after Schulz went through a divorce his behavior had changed in ways the person called “disturbing.”

The victim told Roberts that he unexpectedly ran into Schulz at the restaurant, where Schulz later tried to start up a conversation. According to Roberts’ report, the victim claimed that he told Schulz he didn’t want to talk to him “because [Schulz] was clearly intoxicated.” The fight started soon after.

The victim told Roberts that at one point during the disturbance after people tried to pull the men apart, he saw Schulz put his hands on another person’s throat; he also described seeing red marks on that person’s throat once Schulz had been pulled off the second person.

Roberts’ report states that photos emailed to him by a second alleged victim show a person with “significant red marks and scratches on both sides of his neck consistent with his account.”

After speaking with Schulz, Roberts wrote that Schulz claimed that the group of people had antagonized him earlier in the night leading to the fight and told Roberts that “nice guys finish last.”

Roberts wrote that “Schulz’s partial account…did not match the video surveillance segments that I observed, the account of the manager, the account of the victim, or the accounts of either of the witnesses.”

Schulz appeared in court on May 17 where the state declined to prosecute the case. According to a report from Meghan Friedmann of Hearst Connecticut, “State Prosecutor Jeffrey Doskos, who was handling the case, told the court his office tried to reach out to the complainant but had not received a response. Doskos also had seen documentation indicating Schulz had undergone treatment, he said.”

Spera instructed Captain Jeffrey DePerry to conduct an internal investigation into Schulz’s actions that night. The report was completed on March 31 and made available to the Harbor News on May 24.

In DePerry’s report, much of what had previously been reported was not disputed. Schulz admitted to having had a lot to drink at his birthday party held earlier in the day before even arriving at the Essex restaurant where he continued to drink more. He can be seen on camera initiating verbal contact in the pool table area.

What is unclear, according to DePerry’s report, is who initiated physical contact. As Spera noted in a letter to the commission, “[DePerry’s] review was conducted using multiple angles. The State Police’s criminal investigation utilized solely the pool/recreation room camera.”

DePerry also interviewed 16 witnesses who gave conflicting reports of who started physical contact.

According to the report, Schulz does push one victim and for the next 43 seconds a brawl ensued. DePerry wrote that during the course of the altercation, Schulz threw no closed-fist punches but was punched, pushed, grabbed, and choked at different points by multiple people before the fight was broken up.

In a document sent to the police commission on April 6, Spera wrote that “To say the least, Patrolman Schulz’s off duty conduct and subsequent arrest are of great disappointment and embarrassment for our agency. He has brought shame and discredit to the department...”

In determining what discipline Schulz should face, Spera wrote, “I also spent time considering if Patrolman Schulz were to continue his law enforcement career, would he be able to do so effectively? Would he be able to meet workplace expectations, is it possible for him to reassimilate with his peers and gain their trust and respect, and could the Old Saybrook community trust him once again as one of their guardians?”

However, Spera wrote that Schulz should be given the chance to try and regain that trust.

The Police Commission unanimously voted on May 23 to hand a 90-day unpaid suspension to Schulz and enter a last chance agreement with the officer.

Per the agreement between the Commission and the police union, Schulz had to undergo a psychological assessment by the department psychologist before he was allowed reinstatement. Schulz also participated in mandatory de-escalation, use of force, domestic violence, and gender sensitivity courses.

The incident in February was not the first time Schulz had made news for his service in Old Saybrook. According to the March 23 New Haven Register story “Affidavit: Old Saybrook police officer arrested after allegedly choking man in fight at restaurant” by Friedman, “Schulz also was a codefendant in a 2020 lawsuit alleging he let his police dog bite a woman while she was pinned to the floor by another officer. The town settled that case for $190,000 in an agreement that did not admit wrongdoing.”

On a positive note, Schulz was named Officer of the Year by the Old Saybrook/Westbrook Exchange Club in 2018.

Schulz is now the second officer to leave the department after being found to have made false claims under oath this year. In early January, the Police Commission narrowly voted to fire officer Austin Harris after Harris filed a false police report and lied to his superiors about how his computer was damaged.