An arbitrator has thrown out a high-profile internal investigation of a Boston police sergeant. who was accused of abusing the paid detail system, by concluding police conducted a shoddy investigation based on speculation, not evidence.
In an 86 page rebuke to the department, arbitrator Craig E. Overton concluded Sergeant Jacqueline Creaven should not have been given a six-month suspension without pay, or placed on administrative leave for a year as a result of an Internal Affairs Division investigation into paid details.
Creaven was punished in 2007 following an internal investigation that concluded she had improperly filled out paid detail records, dealt directly with contractors seeking paid details in violation of department rules, and scheduled details while she was working a regular shift.
But Overton said none of the 119 charges had any substance, and he dismissed them all.
"Based on all the evidence presented in this case and after fully and carefully considering the arguments presented by both parties, it is the decision of this arbitrator that…the [sanction] decisions were based on opinion and conjecture and not on valid and reliable facts,'' Overton wrote.
"Consequently, the decision to place Sgt. Creaven on administrative leave…were not for just cause,'' Overton wrote.
Creaven is now due about 18 months worth of paid detail and overtime money, and six months back pay, according to Leah Marie Barrault, Creaven's attorney and the lawyer for her union, the Superior Officers Federation.
"She's got almost 20 years on the job. She is a dedicated Boston police officer,'' Barrault said. "She is a single mom. This is what she wants to do and she is really good at it.''
She added, "The arbitrator came to what we thought was the case all along – there was no basis for the hundreds of charges levied against her.''
Elaine Driscoll, spokeswoman for Boston Police Commissioner Edward Davis, said the department still believes the investigation of Creaven's work habits on paid details was sound.
"The police commissioner is disappointed,'' Driscoll said in a telephone interview, adding the department is trying to decide whether to appeal the case to the Superior Court. "We believe we conducted a thorough and comprehensive internal affairs investigation into this serious matter.''
Driscoll said the investigation that led to the charges against Creaven – at least three lieutenants were also brought up on internal charges – led to a revamping of the way the paid detail system is supervised by the department.
"Ultimately, overall, it had a positive effect on the police department,'' Driscoll said.
Barrault said she was glad the department now feels it can better manage its own officers, but she faulted the department for making Creaven pay the price for past management failures.
"This might have been a useful tool…but it shouldn't have been done at the expense of a 20-year veteran,'' Barrault said.
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