One police officer fired, one placed on leave in New London

At his home in New London Thursday, Lance Goode watches a video of his Oct. 20, 2010, arrest by New London police for possession of narcotics (oxycodone) with intent to sell, which he claims was planted by police and is evident in the video shot from a city police cruiser.
At his home in New London Thursday, Lance Goode watches a video of his Oct. 20, 2010, arrest by New London police for possession of narcotics (oxycodone) with intent to sell, which he claims was planted by police and is evident in the video shot from a city police cruiser. Tim Martin/The Day

New London - The city fired a police officer Friday for his role in the beating of a man outside of a drug and alcohol detoxification center and placed another officer on administrative leave while allegations that he planted drugs during an arrest are investigated.

Mayor Daryl Justin Finizio said Officer Joshua Bergeson was fired following an administrative hearing Friday afternoon to review his role in the Dec. 14 beating of Reuben Miller outside the Southeastern Council on Alcohol and Drug Dependency facility on Coit Street.

K-9 Officer Roger Newton has been placed on paid administrative leave, Finizio said, as federal, state and local agencies investigate a city man's allegations that Newton planted drugs at the scene during his arrest on drug-dealing charges in October 2010. Lance Goode, 43, says a video shot from a police cruiser shows Newton planting the drugs.

Newton is the "subject of an ongoing criminal investigation in the New London Police Department," Finizio said at a press conference Friday at City Hall.

Goode, who admits he's been arrested "over 30 times" by New London police, said Newton planted a bag of oxycodone pills near a car after Newton and Officer Timothy Henderson followed Goode to a residence on Oct. 20, 2010.

Goode said the officers pulled up to 32 Fuller Ave. after Goode had parked his car and claimed he hadn't used a turn signal.

In a 50-minute cruiser dashboard video that Goode provided to The Day on Thursday, the two officers are seen pulling up behind Goode at the residence without their police lights illuminated, then confronting Goode, who said he had been driving a friend's car.

Goode said he was not able to find a valid insurance card so he went looking for it in the residence while Henderson followed. Newton, in the video, circles the car, waving a flashlight inside Goode's car before returning to his cruiser.

Goode said the officers told him they would tow the vehicle and Goode gave an officer his key. The officers allowed Goode to take his possessions out of the car before they towed it, Goode said.

In the video, Goode opens the trunk and removes several items that he takes into a house, with Henderson following.

Newton, Goode said, can be seen in the video dropping a plastic bag filled with white pills. Newton looks around, Goode said, before kicking the bag behind two trash cans.

A minute or so later, a third cruiser pulls up, at which point Goode is arrested and put into the back of a cruiser.

"I was coming out of the house and one of the officers had a Taser and I said, 'You're going to Taser me for not having an insurance card?'" Goode said. "Newton said, 'No, for narcotics.'" He was not Tasered.

Goode said Thursday the case was nolled, or not prosecuted, and that he and his public defender, Shawn Tiernan, had received a copy of the dashboard video as part of the discovery process. Goode said he first saw the video Dec. 10, and couldn't believe what he saw. He forwarded a copy of the tape to the state's attorney's office and said that Supervisory Investigator Philip Fazzino was looking into it.

"When they saw it, they said that's criminal," Goode said.

Goode said that despite his lengthy arrest record, he'd never before encountered Newton.

"I want his ass fired and locked up," Goode said of Newton. "The initial trust starts with the police. Who else would he do that to, seeing as he has so much power?"

Tiernan refused comment Friday, as did Michael Kennedy, the supervisory assistant state's attorney at the GA10 court on Broad Street.

No report of the arrest exists, a clerk at the police department said Friday.

Finizio said he had not seen the video.

SCADD incident

Bergeson, who joined the department in 2007, has a lengthy record of disciplinary actions, Finizio said.

Bergeson was suspended from the force in 2009 after he allegedly slapped a woman while off duty in April of that year at the Shrine nightclub at Foxwoods Resort Casino. The report from those incidents was among the files Finizio made public Friday afternoon.

Finizio said Bergeson was fired for "repeated absences from work and his involvement in the incident at the SCADD facility."

Police charged Miller, 31, Dec. 14 with interfering with an officer and second-degree breach of peace after responding around 7:30 p.m. to the SCADD detoxification center on Coit Street. Witnesses, including center technician Stanley Jurgielewicz, said police officers who responded when called by SCADD to help take Miller to the hospital repeatedly punched and pepper-sprayed him when they arrived on scene.

Miller had CAT scans and X-rays done after his arrest, his attorney, David Jaffe, said last month, and suffered bruises over a large portion of his body. At least one rib was broken, Jaffe said, and Miller had a concussion, suffers from headaches and has trouble sleeping. Most of the physical injuries involved Miller's ribs, neck and back, Jaffe said.

Finizio said the investigation into the incident, conducted by Capt. William Dittman, is complete but will not yet be released to the public because Miller has filed an intent to sue the city.

Finizio did not disclose Bergeson's precise role in the incident, but he said that no other officers will be disciplined. He also said he has the utmost confidence in the "overwhelming majority" of the city's police officers.

"The New London Police Department is a good department, full of good officers," Finizio said. "And this administration will stand behind the police who want to come to work, do a good job, and help our city and bring honor to their department.

"And through this transition in management, and through these ongoing investigations, we will make sure that we have the best department possible, that we become a model for efficiency and integrity, and that we make the people of New London proud."

s.goldstein@theday.com

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POLL

Have the recent revelations of personnel departures and investigations at the New London Police Department caused you to lose some confidence in the city's police force?

Yes, these incidents appear serious.

56%

No, these issues arise in any city police department.

13%

I think the departures and investigations show the department is moving in the right direction.

31%

Number of votes: 1202