COLONIE — Two Colonie police veterans agreed to demotions after an audit revealed they conspired to clock each other into work while not showing up.
Last August, an anonymous online message prompted a review of duty hours by the department’s Office of Professional Standards for 2021 and 2022. The message accused Derek Breslin and Daniel Grebert, two 16-year veterans of the agency, of collaborating to swipe each other in. The officer who failed to initially show for work would then arrive halfway through the shift, relieving the other before clocking both out.
The email was received on a Saturday night. Colonie Police Chief Michael Woods said internal affairs launched an investigation the next morning.
“We received a complaint about possible officer misconduct and immediately initiated an internal affairs investigation,” Colonie Police Chief Michael Woods said. “We were notified on Saturday night at about 10 p.m. and internal affairs began its investigation at 7 a.m. the next morning.”
According to Woods and Deputy Chief Robert Winn, it did not take long to find the problem as the Commander of the Office of Professional Services found that at the beginning of the sergeants’ shift August 14, they were not there or clocked in correctly.
“We immediately engaged with (the town’s) HR and outside labor council,” Woods said.
Winn and Woods both said Breslin and Grebert were cooperative and truthful about what happened and the investigation was completed by internal affairs.
“The officers admitted to their misconduct. The officers agreed to our demands and were disciplined by being demoted back to the rank of Patrol Officer and to pay back the time,” Woods said.
Grebert forfeited 175.25 hours of time and Breslin forfeited 74.5 hours, according to human resources memos in their personnel files.
Woods said the demands had to include that the department could not have Breslin and Grebert as supervisors because they could not supervise themselves.
The town, Breslin, Grebert and their attorneys agreed to enter into a stipulation of agreement instead of filing formal disciplinary action set forth in the Colonie’s contract with the Colonie PBA and the Civil Service Law. All parties signed Breslin’s agreement on September 6 and Grebert’s on September 7.
Woods said the agreement is disciplinary action and would spare all parties the delay and cost of the proceedings going through the formal civil service disciplinary process. Earl Redding of Roemer, Wallens, Gold and Mineaux LLP, who serves the Town’s Labor Council, said it could cost the municipality anywhere from $3,000 to $25,000 to go through the formal civil service disciplinary process.
“This is severe punishment. It includes a permanent record of misconduct and demotion in their personnel record which includes a substantial financial punishment as well. It is about a $12,000 per year difference,” Woods said. “This discipline was certain, swift and fair.”
Spotlight News requested and received a copy of Breslin’s and Grebert personnel file under the freedom of information law and confirmed the agreement, complaint email and deductions in rank and pay set forth in the agreement.
“All options (of punishment) were looked at. These are 16-year decorated officers with no discipline in their careers and they made a mistake,” Woods said. “This was adequate discipline for this kind of mistake. Our discipline is based on the totality of the investigation.”
Woods and Winn said that in the 30 plus years they have been in the department they never had to demote a supervisor.
“This agreement met all our demands,” Woods said. “It also will save taxpayers money not to go through arbitration.”
“In this case, the town said this is what we want for discipline for these two sergeants and the PBA and employee agreed,” Redding said. “If they had not agreed, the town would have filed formal written charges.”
When asked if family connections played a role in the investigation, Woods responded, “It had absolutely nothing to do with this.”
Grebert’s father, Chief John Grebert, was the Colonie Police Chief who retired in 2003.
Breslin’s father, Lt. Thomas J. Breslin Jr retired from the department in 2001, but is currently employed by the town as the Parks and Recreation coordinator and has held other positions at the town under the prior administration, according to Town Supervisor Peter Crummey.
Breslin’s brother, Lt. Thomas Breslin, currently supervises B-shift patrol officers at Colonie police.
“No one in our Office of Professional Standards ever worked with their fathers and they work independently,” he added.
If the town did file formal charges, both officers would be on leave during the process and the department would not be able to fill those slots with overtime hours of existing staff until a decision was rendered. Such a process can take up to a year and legal costs to the department would be substantial, Winn said.
State regulations that certify police officers were changed seven years ago to restrict officers who are formally charged in the disciplinary process or are subject to potential criminal charges so they cannot retire or quit to join another municipality until the process is concluded.
The Town has to report to the Department of Criminal Justice Services any time a police officer retires, resigns or is removed and it is an event that triggers a review of certification.
According to Redding, if Breslin and Grebert resigned before the agreement was signed, the Town would have to report to the Department of Criminal Justice Services that they were under disciplinary action when they notified the agency of the separation of employment and DCJS would have to make the ultimate decision as to if they should be decertified as a police officer. Without certification they could not work as a police officer in New York State
Woods and Winn said that, in this case, it would not matter because neither officer was at retirement age or fired and the process was complete. In addition, the disciplinary results are part of the officer’s personnel file which is now accessible through FOIL and they don’t believe this rises to the level of criminal charges. Winn said that the department has sent the files to the Albany County District Attorney’s office for review.
Albany County District Attorney David Soares’ office said it does not comment on these matters and are referring all questions to the Colonie police, but did confirm that they received the files.
Breslin, however, left the department last December to join the Niskayuna Police department as a patrol officer. Winn confirmed Niskayuna was aware of the agreement and it was included in their records. The Town also notified DCJS that Breslin had resigned.
“We do not manage those records here, they are kept and maintained at the Human Relations department at Town Hall ,” Winn said. “We believe [Niskayuna] sent a representative to review the files.”
Both Grebert and Breslin joined the force in 2006. Both graduated from Shaker High School and worked for the town during college, prior to becoming police officers. Grebert worked for the parks department as a laborer and was hired in 2003. Breslin worked at the town library as a page and was hired in 2002.
Grebert was promoted to investigator from a patrol officer in 2015 and then to sergeant in 2016.
Breslin was promoted from patrol officer to detective in 2017 and then sergeant in 2019.
Both officers were the top names on the sergeant’s exam lists at the time they were promoted to sergeant.