A police officer who made headlines last summer for helping a hit-and-run victim while off-duty was forced to resign from the Mount Vernon Police Department after New York state stripped him of his training certification.
But Joseph Aufiero and his lawyers are trying to get the state’s action reversed, arguing that his previous employer, the Mount Pleasant police, should never have notified the Division of Criminal Justice Services that he was facing disciplinary action.
Aufiero was sworn in as a Mount Vernon police officer Oct. 20, a few days before the Mount Pleasant Town Board accepted his resignation.
But on Nov. 9, Mount Pleasant officials notified the Division of Criminal Justice Services that Aufiero was facing disciplinary charges at the time he resigned. The nature of the departmental charges or how long Aufiero faced them was not made public. He had been trying to find a different job for a lengthy period of time before landing the Mount Vernon position.
DCJS in October 2016 began decertifying the training certificates of officers who were terminated for cause or resigned while facing disciplinary charges as a way to help law enforcement agencies avoid hiring troublesome cops.
The state agency on Nov. 9 decertified Aufiero’s training, meaning he would have to go through the police academy again. They had known as of Nov. 3 that Aufiero had a new job but it wasn’t until Dec. 20 that they informed Mount Vernon of his changed status. Officers have one year to complete training and get certified from the time they are hired. It is up to their department to decide how to deploy them until then.
Avoid the academy expense
Mount Vernon had specifically hired Aufiero so they could avoid the time and expense of having a new recruit trained. They have done that frequently over the years, sometimes with officers who had less than stellar careers elsewhere.Get the Coronavirus Watch newsletter in your inbox.
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Mount Vernon police Commissioner Shawn Harris said that Aufiero was placed on modified duty once they were contacted by DCJS. He was given time to clear up the issue because the city was not going to pay for him to go back to the academy, Harris said.
But the issue was not resolved and Aufiero had to submit his resignation last week. Harris left open the possibility that Aufiero could return if his certification was restored. Aufiero’s lawyers, who declined to comment, are trying to get Mount Pleasant to submit corrected paperwork to DCJS but the agency still might require new training.
Harris said Mount Vernon did not have any reason to check if Aufiero had a training certificate because he was coming from another department. And even if they had in mid- to late October, they would have found out it was valid because Mount Pleasant had not yet contacted the state.
Mount Pleasant was also directed by DCJS on Nov. 9 to notify Aufiero that his certification was revoked. It’s not clear if that was done or why Mount Pleasant had waited two weeks after Aufiero’s resignation to contact the state.
Police Chief Paul Oliva was out of town this week and did not return phone messages. Lt. Robert Miliambro would not comment because it was a personnel issue and Town Supervisor Carl Fulgenzi did not return phone messages
Aufiero was hailed for his work while off-duty one night last summer. On July 9, returning home with his wife from a concert, Aufiero stopped to help a motorcyclist who had been badly injured in a hit-and-run accident on the Garden State Parkway.