NISKAYUNA, N.Y. (NEWS10) — All charges have been dropped against Niskayuna Police Department Deputy Chief Michael Stevens after allegations of a hostile work environment. The Niskayuna Town Supervisor Yasmine Syed issued a letter of transparency detailing the investigation and events leading up to the charges being dropped.
On July 27, 2020, Syed said she and former Councilwoman Rosemary Perez Jaquith received an anonymous email from an apparent member of the police department about Stevens’ conduct. Several allegations were made against the Deputy Chief that led to him creating an allegedly hostile work environment. Some of the allegations included making derogatory comments against Muslims and calling some of the male officers “sweetheart” and blowing kisses at them.
Syed and the Town Board conducted interviews with Stevens and other members of the department. Syed said Stevens admitted to certain allegations with explanations. The Town Board then retained a lawyer to conduct a full investigation into the claims.
After the investigation concluded, Syed served Stevens with preferred charges and specifications pursuant to Section 75 of the New York State Civil Service Law. The charges included eight counts of misconduct and one count of incompetence based on the misconduct charges.
After the charges were served, Syed said, “Deputy Chief Stevens refused to accept responsibility for any of the charges while certain of the complainants demanded that he be fired.”
During this time, Niskayuna was in the process of selecting a new police chief. Stevens passed the New York State Civil Service exam for police chief and was one of three candidates.
The town’s counsel, Jay Girvin, was also moving forward with the Civil Service Section 75 disciplinary hearing process for Stevens. Syed said this type of disciplinary hearing is required to be closed to the public unless the employee against whom the charges are brought requests that it be open to the public.
“While Deputy Chief Stevens’ attorney alluded in press reports that Deputy Chief Stevens might elect to request an open hearing, neither Deputy Chief Stevens nor his attorney ever formally advised the town, Attorney Girvin, or the hearing officer that he was requesting a public hearing,” said Syed.
Jordan Kochan was sworn in to be Niskayuna Chief of Police on September 17. Syed said Stevens was not the top candidate.
Syed said the town decided to withdraw the charges against Stevens and instead issue a Letter of Counsel on the advice of Attorney Girvin. The Letter of Counsel detailed behaviors to be avoided and corrective actions to be taken by Stevens.
Syed released redacted documents of the initial anonymous email, the Civil Service Section 75 charges, and the Letter of Counsel. Those documents can be viewed below.
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