ALBANY, N.Y. (NEWS10) – On Monday, the chief and a sergeant from the Fort Edward Village Police Department went before Albany City Court. Both have been charged for falsifying a large number of documents over a matter of months in 2019.
Chief Justin Derway and Sgt. Dean Watkins pleaded not guilty on Monday to 11 counts of first-degree filing a false instrument with intent to defraud. The two are accused of falsely reporting over 800 hours in police training hours.
“(Watkins) spent a very long time in public service, devoted to public safety,” said Thomas Capezza, Watkins’ lawyer. “He deserves more than a rush to judgment. Give him the benefit of the doubt.”
Derway and Watkins submitted over 1,400 hours of training time working with 15 police recruits in 2019, including 11 officers who were hired by the Fort Edward department. The training was supposed to comprise roughly 700 hours over 11 months – Oct. 20, 2018 to Sept. 27, 2019. The investigation was launched when the officers reported having worked double that number of hours in just three months – July 28 to Oct. 20, 2019.
When the New York State Department of Criminal Justice Services reviewed those records, as well as those of the 11 officers hired by Fort Edward Police Department, it was found that Watkins did not actually work 668.5 of the hours he submitted. Derway did not work 228 of his submitted hours.
It’s not the only legal incident connected to the village police department in the last year. The department is currently the defendant in a lawsuit by resident Robert Murat-Hinton, who alleges he was a victim of excessive force after being arrested in a bar fight on July 8, 2021. Video shows Murat-Hinton being tased by police after kicking a wall inside a police station, and he alleges that the tasing continued after he stopped.
Both officers were released on their own recognizance but were first sent to state police offices in Albany to complete the booking process. Watkins is set for his next hearing on April 18.