New York Attorney General James’ Law Enforcement Misconduct Investigative Office Releases Report on Saugerties Police Officer Dion Johnson
NEW YORK (STL.News) New York Attorney General Letitia James’ Law Enforcement Misconduct Investigative Office (LEMIO) Friday released its report on multiple complaints filed against Saugerties Police Department (SPD) Officer Dion Johnson. The SPD referred complaints against Officer Johnson, including allegations of harassment and sexual assault from a member of the public and from coworkers, to LEMIO pursuant to Executive Law 75(5)(b), which requires law enforcement agencies to refer cases in which an officer has been subject to five or more complaints in a two-year period to the Office of the Attorney General (OAG) for review. The SPD fully cooperated with LEMIO. After a thorough investigation, including interviews with complainants and SPD command staff, and a review of SPD and Albany Police Department (APD) investigative and personnel files and agency policies, LEMIO concluded that Officer Johnson engaged in a pattern of misconduct involving inappropriate behavior of a sexual nature, and recommended that SPD seek to terminate him for these actions.
During Officer Johnson’s employment at APD and SPD, he was the subject of multiple complaints and disciplinary actions regarding allegations of untruthfulness, sexual harassment, and sexual assault. As a result of the complaints and allegations detailed below, SPD suspended Officer Johnson for 10 days and put him on probation for a year. However, upon review of the officer’s conduct, LEMIO concluded that SPD’s disciplinary actions were not sufficient, given the severity of Officer Johnson’s offenses. In the report, LEMIO provides recommendations to SPD, including the termination of Officer Johnson and updates to agency policies and practices regarding sexual misconduct and internal personnel investigations.
Overview of Misconduct
In August 2020, a civilian filed a complaint with SPD alleging Officer Johnson repeatedly harassed her, sending inappropriate messages and pictures, and sexually assaulted her while he was on duty. An internal SPD investigation found that Officer Johnson committed three SPD rule violations, but there was not sufficient evidence that he violated criminal law. LEMIO concluded it is more likely than not that Officer Johnson engaged in non-consensual physical contact with the complainant and was not truthful during his sworn interview with SPD.
In September 2020, another SPD officer filed complaints that Officer Johnson, who was already under investigation, touched her in a sexual manner while on duty and previously sent her an inappropriate and unwelcome message on social media. The internal investigation conducted by SPD found that Officer Johnson violated SPD’s sexual harassment policies, and LEMIO reached the same conclusion.
In October 2021, a second SPD officer reported Officer Johnson for sexual harassment and inappropriate touching. The agency’s investigation found the complaint to be unsubstantiated, but LEMIO concludes that the incident did constitute sexual harassment.
Prior to his employment with SPD, Officer Johnson worked for APD. The investigation also found that while working at APD, Officer Johnson was accused of repeatedly misleading his supervisor regarding his eligibility for overtime in violation of APD policies. Officer Johnson resigned from APD shortly after his supervisor recommended that he face administrative charges for these violations. When Officer Johnson applied for a position with SPD, an SPD investigator contacted the APD supervisor for a reference check, but the APD supervisor failed to inform SPD of his misconduct.
Following a thorough review of the facts, LEMIO concluded that Officer Johnson engaged in a pattern of repeated misconduct. In the report released today, LEMIO recommended that Officer Johnson be terminated from his position at SPD and that SPD take additional remedial actions, including:
Update and improve its policies and practices regarding sexual misconduct and internal investigations, including establishing presumptive penalties for officers found to have engaged in misconduct and implementing trauma-informed protocols for investigations; and
In cases involving potentially serious criminal allegations against an officer, such as the civilian complaint filed against Officer Johnson, SPD should notify and consult with the Ulster County District Attorney’s office.
The LEMIO was established by Executive Law 75 for the purpose of increasing public safety, protecting civil liberties and civil rights, ensuring compliance with constitutional protections and local, state, and federal laws, and increasing public confidence in law enforcement. Pursuant to Executive Law 75(5)(b), covered agencies are required to refer to LEMIO instances in which an officer has been subject to five or more complaints within two years. LEMIO is then required to investigate such complaints to determine whether the subject officer engaged in a pattern or practice of misconduct, use of excessive force, or acts of dishonesty. Executive Law 75 authorizes LEMIO to provide remedial recommendations to the covered agency.
SOURCE: New York Attorney General