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Jul 7, 2010 11:39 AMPublication: The Southampton Press

Southampton Village Police investigation discovers porn on department computers

Jul 7, 2010 11:39 AM

Pornography and other sexually charged content has been detected on several Southampton Village Police Department computers in a sweeping, months-long internal investigation, according to Police Chief William Wilson Jr.

A computer hard drive used exclusively by one employee was found to contain pornographic video and still images, numbering fewer than a dozen, according to the chief. Sexually explicit e-mail messages and online chats were discovered on two other department computers at shared workstations.

The probe, which was conducted by Chief Wilson and Captain Thomas Cummings in conjunction with an external agency whose identity police would not disclose, revealed that the sexual content was transmitted over a period of several months via personal e-mail accounts and internet-based chats. The messages and chats on the computers were independent, not exchanged among the operators, Chief Wilson said.

Chief Wilson said he launched his investigation on April 8 after a reporter following up on a tip questioned him about possible inappropriate computer usage—namely, viewing or sending pornography—within the department.

Former Public Safety Dispatcher Amy Hertling resigned unexpectedly the day after the investigation was launched, citing personal reasons, and former Sergeant Arthur Schucht filed his retirement papers the following week. The chief said both were among the employees who used the two shared workstations where illicit content was found, but once employees leave the department, they are no longer subject to any internal investigations, and Chief Wilson said he is legally prevented from discussing issues involving them.

No current employees are facing consequences for sending the graphic e-mails and chats, the chief said.

The pornography on the third computer, used by a single employee, is another matter. Though he would not reveal the name or position of the staffer implicated, Chief Wilson said he is planning to discuss the matter with the Village Board at its meeting tonight, July 8, and that ultimately the ball is in its court. The board and its labor attorney, Vincent Toomey, will decide on an appropriate plan of action, he said.

The chief described the protocol for handling employment issues with civil service employees as a “legal minefield.”

“These are people’s livelihoods. These are people’s careers. I don’t knee-jerk react,” the chief said, adding that he undertook the investigation “methodically and meticulously.” “Pornography on work computers is a serious issue.”

Chief Wilson said the inappropriate e-mails and chats were discovered sometime during the last week of April or first week of May, and that the pornographic images were found in early June. The chief spoke with the employee whose computer contained the pornography, he said, but employee confidentiality prohibits him from describing the nature of that conversation or when it occurred, he said.

Shortly after launching the investigation, Chief Wilson issued General Order 139, a formal departmental policy outlining what is appropriate in terms of computer usage and electronic messaging. He described the order as a formalization of loose guidelines that were in place previously. The policy states, among other points, that all electronic messaging devices, which include computers, e-mail systems and mobile data terminals, and their contents are agency property and that users do not have a right to privacy on such devices. It also prohibits accessing or sending sexually explicit materials and downloading or importing files without the expressed permission of the chief or his designee.

Chief Wilson added that other measures are also in place, such as internet filters, stricter password requirements and shortened lengths of time before systems automatically log out, and that his investigation will never be fully wrapped up because the computers will be watched continually.

“I’m disappointed in the behaviors of some of the people, and I’m very proud of the way Chief Wilson and his staff handled this investigation,” commented Mayor Mark Epley, who also serves as the village’s police commissioner. “They’ve been very thoughtful and very fair.”

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Wow.
By Mr. Z (11847), North Sea on Jul 7, 10 1:38 PM
Bow-chick;a;wow-wa
By ICARE (23), SOUTHAMPTON on Jul 7, 10 1:56 PM
2 members liked this comment
Maybe if we legalized marijuana these folks wouldn't be under so much stress, freeing up the time to start those college degrees which should have been a prerequisite to getting police jobs in the first place. Maybe they wouldn't need to resort to porn and could have just been quietly studying mathematics in some corner somewhere.
By deKooning (106), southampton on Jul 7, 10 3:02 PM
1 member liked this comment
hey what do you expect from people making $150,000 a year plus benefits and second and third jobs?
By littleplains (305), olde england on Jul 7, 10 4:19 PM
4 members liked this comment
Protecting and serving in the finest tradition.
By Frank Wheeler (1826), Northampton on Jul 7, 10 5:48 PM
1 member liked this comment
This comment has been removed because it is a duplicate, off-topic or contains inappropriate content.
By omghi (20), EH on Jul 7, 10 7:00 PM
Littleplans, actually Arthur Schucht made $151,563 in 2009 before "moving on". Amy Hertling, the police dispatcher, who resigned due to a "scheduling conflict" over her kids, made $82+K last year. Hmmm, how odd. Do you know anyone who gives up an $82K because they can't get a babysitter? What are the odds her "scheduling conflict" gets resolved after this case is closed and she reappears on the public payroll?

Whatever the real story is here, for the money the police union forces out of ...more
By East End 2 (151), Southampton on Jul 7, 10 7:06 PM
The problem here was a general order was issued shortly AFTER the investigation was begun. Prior to that loose guidelines were in effect. A patch was put in place to correct this situation. That's it. Happens 100 of times a day all over the country. The chief over there took appropriate action.
By BruceB (142), Sag Harbor on Jul 7, 10 10:54 PM
Our tax dollars at work. Happens 100 times per day? Maybe on private computers in companys owned by individuals but not computers purchased with tax dollars for public servants who we pay to serve and protect. They actually need a general order to know it is wrong to use village property for porn while on village time?

Where is the supervision? Don't these officers have to give an explanation for all their time spent in Headquarters?



By DP377k (19), Southampton on Jul 8, 10 8:05 AM
2 members liked this comment
Were is the supervision? The only members of the department that have computers assigned to them are SUPERVISORS. This one in particular is the Public Safety Dispatcher Supervisor.He is in charge on monitoring computer usage.
By Scooby (12), Southampton on Jul 8, 10 3:47 PM
3 members liked this comment
Little to do but look for harmless porn on computers. Your tax dollars at work.
By Feeney57 (3), Westhampton on Jul 8, 10 8:42 AM
(In the Scooby Doo voice) Rah Row
By ride the truth wave (125), southampton on Jul 8, 10 10:48 AM
1 member liked this comment
Sad that they can get a way with all this.If they were doing this when working for police force they should face charges. So lets just let them quit and get the benefits and all they are doing is laughing at the tax payers who are getting screwed.
By sjd (420), Westhampton Beach on Jul 8, 10 11:32 AM
2 members liked this comment
Oh big deal. Police porn is not as bad. Just pics of donuts in various states of glazing.
By tuckahoetrip (46), Water Mill on Jul 8, 10 1:31 PM
1 member liked this comment
Deviant sexual behavior occurs within an organizational context which can be decades old.

Think hospital records regarding spousal abuse issues from previous PD administrations.

There are no coincidences.

MJP
By MJP (13), On Quiogue on Jul 8, 10 5:37 PM
there's never enough porn around the holidays
By CaptainSig (716), Dutch Harbor on Jul 8, 10 9:51 PM
So, what's the plan now? How about another sacrificial Lamb?
BAAAAAAA
By moonface (1), southampton on Jul 8, 10 10:48 PM
My hat is off to the Chief. I wouldn't want the job of having to speak to the guy or gal who was doing this. How embarrassing; they know each other's families. Maybe these officers have "seen" just about everything by now, so a little embarrassment is nothing to them. Imagine the stupidity of a veteran Seargent getting caught in this situation; his pension was put at risk for a look at someone's privates. Bad judgement there. Perhaps this is an indication of just how regressive the American ...more
By Dodger (161), Southampton Village on Jul 9, 10 4:42 AM
Hey, Colleen Reynolds: please do a follow up and let us know how much former Sergeant Arthur Schucht -- one of those officers using the porn-filled workstations -- is now going to receive per year in retirement benefits. How much of our tax dollars is going to now be funneled to Schucht every year for the rest of his life? I bet it is in the six figures, per year.

Maybe a second article would be useful on why members of unions representing public employees in Southampton do not have to ...more
By SHPredatorDept (72), Southampton on Jul 9, 10 11:27 AM
2 members liked this comment
Regardless of why he decided to retire he put in 28 years on the force and deserves his retirement benefits. Looking at your past comments you obviously have something against the police referring to them more than once as predators. Interesting user name you have "SHPredatorDept".
By concerned citizen (41), Hampton Bays on Jul 14, 10 7:51 PM
I don't think Southampton Village is any different than any other police department. Sadly, their computers probably have the same amount of porn as any computer, anywhere, including your own at home, especially if you have teenagers.
By freelance (21), Westhampton Beach on Jul 9, 10 11:49 AM
Two bad apples...does NOT represent the rest of the force...you will have these idiots in every job and sector be it public or private....get over it...
By LINYCGirl (7), New York on Jul 9, 10 1:40 PM
Our tax dollars hard at work.
By ImThinking... (3), East Quogue on Jul 9, 10 2:32 PM
1 member liked this comment
How sad! Can these people really be that bored?
By biscuit10 (1), hampton bays on Jul 10, 10 9:56 AM
If you have so little to do at work each day that you have time to surf the internet or "chat" at work then you need not have a job.
By splashdown (21), sag harbor on Jul 11, 10 2:02 PM
1 member liked this comment