Officials grill chief on police porn probe
By Brent Curtis
Staff Writer | February 17,2010
Cassandra Hotaling / Rutland Herald
Rutland City Police Chief Anthony Bossi answers questions at a Board of Aldermen meeting Tuesday evening.
The question that the city aldermen most wanted answered Tuesday was perhaps the one they learned the least about: Why was city police Sgt. David Schauwecker allowed to remain on duty after a criminal investigation into his possible possession of child pornography had begun.
In probing questions hurled at Police Chief Anthony Bossi, the board explored the chief's decision to leave Schauwecker on duty and unfettered six months after a state police investigation began and five months after a search warrant was executed to seize material from Schauwecker's office — including his computer, which state police still possess.
A sampling of aldermanic questions included:
Why wasn't the officer suspended for public safety and liability concerns?
Why wasn't the officer suspended for apparently violating the city's Internet use policies?
Why did the chief opt not to tell the department's overseers about the investigation deciding unilaterally instead to keep Schauwecker on duty?
Throughout an hour's worth of hard questions, Bossi's answer to those questions all came back to a common point.
"I did not have enough evidence in my mind to place the officer on administrative leave and I didn't want to do anything to slow down the criminal investigation," Bossi said in the first of several similarly worded answers.
Bossi told the board he acted quickly to contact state police investigators after pornographic material — including suspected child pornography —was found on a laptop under Schauwecker's profile at the end of July. On Aug. 11, city police requested state police involvement and on Sept. 22, state investigators executed a search warrant inside Bossi's department.
Bossi said he wasn't aware of what state police seized during their search or the supporting evidence they had to execute the search until Feb. 5, when he obtained a copy of the warrant from the state Attorney General's Office.
In addition to addressing the aldermen, Bossi spoke before a room full of residents and members of the press and the police commission chairman. Before the aldermen began questioning the chief, one city resident told the board she was deeply concerned about recent events reported from the department.
Later, multiple board members asked the chief why he couldn't act on the information he had.
"Wasn't there a liability for the city?" Alderwoman Sharon Davis said. "That should have been a huge consideration through this process."
Bossi, who offered two public apologies during the meeting for the problems in his department, said he weighed liability and safety issues but decided they were outweighed by the need to protect the criminal case.
"That weighed heavily on my mind," the chief said in response to Davis' question. "The liability of the city and protection of the public are important, but they were not enough to act at that time."
"The criminal case in my mind takes precedence. I would do nothing to mess up their case," he added.
Bossi was later asked by Alderman Kevin Coleman how an internal investigation or action to suspend the officer would interfere with the state police investigation.
The chief said he couldn't answer either question yet.
"I'm not able to speak to either investigation because they're not yet complete," he said.
Of equal concern to many of the aldermen was the chief's decision not to consult or inform the mayor, police commission or city attorney.
Alderman Christopher Robinson said he couldn't understand the chief's decision not to seek legal advice particularly after the search warrant was executed.
"If a search warrant is executed at my house, I'm going to call my attorney," Robinson said. "But you don't think to contact the city attorney about the warrant?"
"I decided to let the process play out," Bossi responded. "It seemed best to let the state police conduct their criminal investigation."
"My decision was based on the totality of the information I had on hand. I think I made the right decision," he added.
Bossi also said he strives to share as much information with the police commission as he can.
"I would say that 99 percent of the time, they get it pretty quick," he said, referring to personnel information shared with the board.
At least one alderman said the chief might need to push that number higher.
"I'm concerned that the chief of police used his discretion and sole judgment to decide what the commission should be informed about and what not to tell them," Alderman William Notte said. "Ninety-nine percent might not be enough."