Pubdate: Wed, 29 Jun 2005
Source: Connecticut Post (Bridgeport, CT)
Copyright: 2005sMediaNews Group, Inc
Author: Danel Tepfer
Bookmark: (Students - United States)


Easton Police Chief John Solomon used two teenage Police Explorers at
Joel Barlow High School to uncover drug dealing activity there, and
concealed this from their parents, newly released Superior Court
documents reveal.

But the covert operation ended when two police officers secretly
recorded the chief talking about it and notified the teens' parents,
the documents state.

"No one should know. If you are an informant, you wouldn't want anyone
to know. I didn't do anything wrong," Solomon said Tuesday.

But Louis Salute, executive of the Yankee Council of the Boy Scouts,
which oversees the Explorer Post, said it was definitely wrong.

"Young people are there to learn about police work. They are not
supposed to be put in a situation of danger and they are not to be
used this way," he said.

Joseph Mason, an Easton officer suspended in connection with the
incident, was arrested on eavesdropping and other charges.

He is to be arraigned on July 8. His lawyer, John R. Gulash, declined
comment on the case.

Another officer, Anthony Land, son of Weston Police Chief Anthony
Land, has been forced to resign.

According to Mason's arrest warrant affidavit, prepared by the State
Police Central District Major Crime Squad, the two Barlow students
provided confidential information to School Resource Officer Mark
Pastor for a drug investigation at the Redding school, which is made
up of students from Redding and Easton.

In early February, Solomon approached Pastor in the Police
Department's locker room.

The affidavit states that Solomon told Pastor "that he did not want
the Police Explorers who provided information to be exposed or their
safety compromised, that he did not want the parents of the Police
Explorers to believe that the Easton Police Department was utilizing
members of the Explorer Post for drug investigations."

Solomon told Pastor that under "no circumstances" was he to identify
the Explorers to Redding Police Chief Doug Fuchs.

They were unaware that their conversation was being recorded by a
digital recording device hidden in Land's locker.

Several days later, according to the affidavit, the parents of the two
Explorers received letters from "a concerned parent" notifying them
that their sons were being used in the drug investigation at the school.

Easton First Selectman William Kupinse Jr. also received the

In early January, Fuchs informed Solomon he had information that two
Barlow students were selling drugs at the school, according to the
affidavit. Solomon then summoned Pastor, also the supervisor of
Easton's Police Explorer program, to assist in providing Solomon with
information about the suspected drug dealers.

The affidavit states that on Jan. 21 the two Explorers provided Pastor
with information about drug use and drug activities in the school. On
Feb. 14, after the students provided Pastor with additional
information, the affidavit states the Explorers told Pastor their
parents received a letter from an unknown person stating that Easton
police were utilizing three Explorers for "narcotic investigations" in
the high school.

The affidavit states that as part of the investigation Solomon said an
undercover Statewide Narcotics Task Force officer was "planted in the
school to develop intelligence pertinent to this case."

Fuchs said last week that he was not aware Barlow students were giving
Easton police information about drug dealing at the school.

"Even if I had that information, [Solomon's] investigation would have
trumped my investigation," he said.

However, Fuchs was adamant that no undercover officer was "planted" in
the high school. "I've been in Redding three years, and during that
time there has never been an undercover officer in Joel Barlow High
School and we have never had plans to have an undercover officer
[there]," he said.

But while Solomon admitted that he didn't tell Fuchs about the
students providing information, he says he did tell him an undercover
officer was going to be put in the school.

"He came here to this department and I told him what we were doing
with the investigation," Solomon said.

Kupinse said he doesn't recall if he received an anonymous letter
about the Explorers, and doesn't know if their parents were aware
their children were working with police on the investigation.

Charles Feld, chairman of Easton's Police Commission, said he had not
read the affidavit.

"All I know is that two people had a recording device in the police
department dressing room. I'm totally unaware of anything being done
by the Explorer Scouts," he said. "Chief Solomon never told the board
about the drug investigation in the high school. I never heard about
it even in executive session."

During a Tuesday meeting with Solomon and several of his top officers,
the chief agreed that information in the affidavit is accurate.

While it states the two students gave police information on drug
dealing in the school on four occasions, Solomon said there were in
fact many more.

"We have an obligation to investigate if there are drugs in school and
to use whatever resources are available to us," he said.

While the officers debated whether they actually "used" the students
to get information, they did agree that they approached the Explorers
seeking information about drug dealing in the school.

Pastor said when he first met with the whole Explorer Post, he asked
them if they had any information on two alleged drug dealers, but none
said they did. However, he said he was later approached by the two who
agreed to find out.

"I have spent years getting a rapport with the students. This is what
I would expect they would come forward with," Pastor said. "The chief
was concerned that any parent would believe that they were utilized in
an investigation. "I would not want anyone in town to think that we
have an Explorer Post to get information on illegal activity in school."

Solomon denied that by using the Explorers to get information on drug
dealing in the school he was putting them in jeopardy.

"We didn't say 'You're a kid, go away, we need to talk to your
parents.' That's not going to happen," he said.

"This is something we do on a daily basis," said Lt. Richard Doyle.
"We approached juveniles on the playground seeking information on
illegal activities and we don't contact their parents."

Mason and Land purchased the voice-activated-recording device and hid
it in the pocket of Land's raid jacket in his locker, the affidavit

The recorder was found there Feb. 24 during a search of Land's locker
by Solomon. The search took place after Officer Thomas Ceccarelli told
Solomon that Land had told him in January that he bought the device to
record the conversations of other police officers.

Officer Thomas Brennan said during the week of Feb. 14 Mason called
him and told him Explorers were doing undercover drug work at the high
school, according to the affidavit, and that a letter had been sent to
the PTA regarding the matter.

After the recorder was found and Mason and Land were suspended, a
panicked Mason told Brennan that if he were asked about the recorder
he should say it was used for union business, according to the affidavit.
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