OSPD Officer Appeals Firing
An appeal has been filed in the case of a recently fired Old Saybrook police officer. The appeal will go to the Connecticut State Board of Mediation and Arbitration over the next several months.
At a special meeting on Feb. 13, the Old Saybrook Police Commission unanimously voted to fire Old Saybrook police officer Josh Zarbo after an accusation the officer used department equipment to learn a woman’s name so he could follow her on Instagram.
In December 2022, the Old Saybrook Police Department (OSPD) announced that Zarbo had been arrested for accessing the Connecticut On-Line Law Enforcement Teleprocessing (COLLECT) system to obtain vehicle registration information of a young woman he had seen earlier in the day so that he could get her name and follow her on the social media site Instagram.
Misuse of the COLLECT system is punishable by criminal charges. Following an investigation, Zarbo was charged with computer crimes in the third degree, a felony to which he has pleaded not guilty, according to the state judicial website. Zarbo is next due in court on March 28.
An attempt to contact Zarbo for comment through his union representative was unsuccessful.
At a Police Commission meeting on Feb. 27, Old Saybrook Police Chief Michael Spera said that an appeal of the firing had been initiated via the union.
Per the collective bargaining agreement between the union and the police department, a terminated employee has the right to ask the Police Commission to reconsider its ruling. If no agreement is reached at that stage, either party has 10 days to submit a dispute to the Connecticut State Board of Mediation and Arbitration. Whatever decision that board reaches is final.
Spera said that the town agreed to waive the follow-up meeting so the case can go directly to the state board.
Additionally, Spera told the commission at the meeting that he had asked the Police Officer Standards and Training Council Certification Division to suspend, revoke, or cancel Zarbo’s certification to be a police officer.
Spera received a letter in response that said the appeals process may take several months. A spokesperson for the board told the Harbor News that by statute, it cannot confirm if cases are active.
Spera told the commission the maximum amount of time a person can be decertified is two years. After that, an individual could be rehired to be a police officer in Connecticut.
Zarbo’s case now goes to the state board of mediation, and he is not the first officer from OSDP to go before the board.
In January 2022, the Police Commission voted to fire police officer Austin Harris after Harris filed a false police report and lied to his superiors about how his computer was damaged. Harris did appeal his firing to the grievance committee and then to the state board but withdrew his appeal from the state board before a decision was rendered.
The state’s Police Officer Standards and Training Council issued a ruling that Harris’ police officer certification is revoked for two years, effective Jan. 7, 2022.
Spera said that even if a decertified officer goes to another police department in another state, that department would likely contact OSPD and ask for information. At that point, OSPD could share information related to the decertification.