Political Hacks and Yonkers Police Benevolent Association (YPBA) Officers Only Answer to Yonkers’ Power Structure
How Many More Police Officers Will Next Be Targeted?
Has Westchester County District Attorney Miriam E. Rocca Dropped the Ball By Deferring to Yonkers Police Department Commanding Officer – Internal Affairs Division – Detective Captain Justin R. Barbato?
This Telling Is About Rocco R. Merante
YONKERS, NY — February 18, 2021 — Rocco R. Merante was hired as a Yonkers Police Officer in July of 2005 after serving 7½ years as a New York City Police Officer. He retired on February 29, 2020 after more than 22 years of service. He earned numerous commendations, certificates of excellence in police work, unit citations, Police Benevolent Association (PBA) Presidents’ award, as well as many letters of appreciation.
He married his high school sweetheart. They have been together since he was 16-years-old. They raised two children.
Rocco has never been arrested. He has never been written up or had any disciplinary incidents while employed with the Yonkers or the New York Police Departments.
On February 26, 2020, Merante discovered his personal, as well as departmental property, had been stolen from his locker, which had been locked and secured inside the Yonkers Police Department’s 4th Precinct. Merante had been on medical leave since January 6, 2017, but had been to his locker numerous times with the last being around September 2019. Merrante reported the stolen items to Sgt. Collins and Capt. Hanley. Two days after discovering the theft, Merante again followed up with Sgt. Collins.
Sgt. Collins advised Merante that higher ranking supervisors were seemingly baffled over what to do or even how to proceed.
Merante made numerous attempts over three-months’ time to follow-up with the Yonkers Police Department’s Internal Affairs Division (IAD) and the 4th Precinct. Each attempt was documented.
What Merante reported was a burglary, as defined according to New York State Penal Code parameters. Most egregiously of all is that the burglary occurred inside the Yonkers Police Department 4th Precinct. As unfathomable as it seems, no investigation and/or police report has ever been filed or conducted.
On May 21, 2020, Merante was contacted by the Office of the Westchester County District Attorney’s Public Integrity Unit. Merante spoke to William Schaeffer to whom he explained the incident that he suffered in its entirety.
Merante was informed and advised to complete and return a complaint form which Merante did. Merante returned the complaint form by “snail mail” using the United States Postal Service, as well as by eMail correspondence on May 27, 2020. The Westchester Country District Attorney’s (WCDA) Office acknowledged receipt of the complaint form by advising Merante by eMail on June 9, 2020, that the WCDA had referred Merante’s complaint back to the Yonkers Police Department’s Internal Affairs Division (IAD).
Coincidentally, on May 28, 2020, IAD Sgt. Fraska called Merante to “begin” an investigation. No interviews were ever conducted with respect to Merante’s stolen property. YPD thereafter quickly deemed Merante’s claim “unsubstantiated” without ever conducting any type of investigation. It took 3 months, first reported on Feb 26, 2020… for an initial “PCT Investigation” report to eventually be dated May 26, 2020).
“In 22 years of police work,” Merante said, “I have made thousands of arrests, written tens of thousands of summonses and testified numerous times in court. Never has my integrity been questioned. I have never seen nor ever experienced a 3-month delay in beginning an investigation.”
Merante questioned, “How can we expect a police department to police others if they cannot police themselves.” Additionally, Merante said, “This also shows how the Yonkers Police Department did/can manipulate their crime stats by refusing to acknowledge a burglary/theft complaint.
Merante said, “I submitted a Freedom of information Law (FOIL) request for all documents regarding my locker (C/R # 20024725). On August 11, 2020, Merante received a letter from Lt. McGuinness verifying Merante’s request. In the paperwork referred to in the prior sentence, interviews conducted with the CO (Capt Hanley), XO (Lt Foley/Lt Block), Yonkers PBA Trustee (PO Croston), and exPBA Trustee (PO Galsinsky). The only police officer interviewed was PO Guzman. In PO Guzman’s statement he relates that he took it upon himself to “remove the old labels and re-number the lockers.” Merante emphasized, “This is a police officer that is on the Westchester County DAs “credibility list” and can’t testify in court.”
In Sgt Collins’ IAD interview Sgt Collins states that Merante “seemed unfazed.” Merante said, “This is from a supervisor who has been employed as a Yonkers Police Officer for less than 5 years.
Nowhere in his original report, which took 3-months to begin, was it ever mentioned that Merante was “unfazed”. Neither did anyone else, such as senior members of the department with whom Merante interacted that day describe Merante as “unfazed”. After a 20-plus police career and the incidents Merante has witnessed and investigated, such as murders, rapes, assaults, accidental deaths, 9/11, Merante said, “little ‘fazes’ me”, but my property being stolen from inside the precinct did upset me. I also have the whole interaction that transpired upon arriving that day at the precinct on audio recording.”
The IAD interviews with supervisors all mention that there are no official systems in place to distribute or keep track of assigned lockers and that numerous other people have access to locker rooms, e.g. cleaning crews, DPW workers, outside contractors, etc.” Yet no one seems to take issue with this and my complaint is determined to be “unsubstantiated”. The police locker rooms are a place where personal and departmental property is stored; including firearms. It seems incongruous that this issue doesn’t matter.
From the onset, “No investigation took place. No Crime Scene Unit to photograph or process Merante’s locker, the inside of which should have contained only Merante’s fingerprints since Merante had that locker for almost 10 years.”
Sgt. Collins mentions the inside of the locker was “dusty”! Any competent investigator knows that a locker is a great environment to recover useable fingerprint comparisons.
Sgt. Collins also wanted Merante to identify items that were left in the locker as Merante’s own. In response to Sgt. Collins’ request, Merante emphasized that, “Since my lock had been removed and then replaced by an unknown person(s), and the items that were left do not have any identifiable characteristics, how could anyone positively identify any common uniform items as their own when the integrity/security of the locker itself had been compromised. The “unknown” lock which had been placed on Merante’s locker after Merante’s original lock was removed had a serial number, yet no efforts were made to trace where the lock replacing Merante’s lock came from. The IAD report states Merante’s “swipecard” had not been used for the duration of the reporting period which dates back to 2015. Telestaff roll call records show Merante worked patrol in the 4th Pct from 2015 through 2017. Merante exclaimed, “How would there be no record of me entering the Pct, not even once, spanning that time frame.
“The IAD reports also focused on the same time frame, with the findings apparently being to long,” said Merante. “I have taken complaints of burglaries where the time frame between possible occurrence and discovery had spanned many years, and yet crime scenes revealed evidence that was processed at the scene.
Merante said, “I should be able to lock my property in my locker in a police facility and it shouldn’t matter how long it sits there….3 days,…. 3 months…., or 3 years…. and when I return, it should still be there.
This is not the first theft of property inside of a police precinct in Yonkers. It HAS happened before, some just choose to ignore/deal with it and move on with their careers. Merante states that he know of at least 3 other incidents such as this incident occurring. As a matter a fact, in the 3rd Pct, a current high ranking member of the Yonkers Police Department who was a P.O. at the time, personally handed Merante equipment taken from a recently retired officer’s locker. He then apologized and asked Merante to return it saying he didn’t realize it was taken without permission and that he was told the officer didn’t want the equipment anymore. Other current YPD police supervisors were also involved in that incident.
On August 24, 2020, Merante filed a complaint with the Yonker’s Inspector General’s Office as well as the NYS Inspector General’s Office. On August 27, 2020, the NYS Inspector General’s Office responded and suggested Merante make a complaint with the NYS Attorney General’s Office which Merante did on August 28, 2020. “I spoke with Inspector Ralph Rodriguez, who works under the aegis of Yonkers Inspector General Liam McLaughlin, Esq. on September 17, 2020, but have not yet heard back. The Office of Yonkers Inspector General closed the case regarding Merante without ever advising him that the case was “unsubstantiated”.
Merante also advised the entire Yonkers City Council Membership and received not one response.
Below, please find the letter not filed as a complaint with IAD on April 29, 2020. Merante reported his property missing on February 26, 2020, and no investigation commenced until May. YPD has intentionally or inadvertently maligned the pertinent details in chronological and dated order. YPD also doesn’t address why proper procedure for a burglary complaint was not followed from the time it was reported. No photos, prints, investigation into where the lock on Merante’s locker came from. The takeaway is evident, YPD made their “unfounded” decision before the investigation ever began.
Detective Captain Justin R. Barbato
Commanding Officer – Internal Affairs Div.
Yonkers N.Y. Police Department
Dear Mr Merante,
Thursday, February 18, 2021, 09:54
YONKERS, NY — Your complaint, which was filed on 4/29/2020 alleging theft of property from your precinct locker, has been thoroughly investigated by this office. It has been established that there is insufficient evidence to support your claim and the investigation has been subsequently closed.
The Yonkers Police Department is committed to high standards of professionalism, and any misconduct will not be condoned. We recognize your sentiment that this matter was not investigated appropriately, but I can assure you that this office’s dedicated and resolute effort in investigating your complaint was consistent and unwavering from the onset.
On 2/17/2021, this office was forwarded an additional complaint, filed by you, from the Westchester District Attorney’s Office. This complaint is consistent with your original complaint filed on 4/29/2020. I will advise that if you have come upon any new evidence that may shed new light upon this matter please forward it to this office. Absent new evidence, this matter will remain closed.
If you have any questions please contact me.
Detective Captain Justin R. Barbato
Commanding Officer – Internal Affairs Div.
Yonkers N.Y. Police Department