A high-ranking cop in the Wallingford Police Department ordered the arrest of a man who was openly carrying a holstered pistol outside a billiards club on May 16, 2010. Richard Burgess, the man who was arrested, says his Fourth Amendment rights were violated and filed a complaint to internal affairs the next day. When he went in to make his statement to the police, he was shocked to find out the man conducting the investigation was the same one who ordered his arrest.
Rachel Baird is Burgess's attorney. She says a cop investigating his own decision is a clear-cut conflict of interest.
"This Lieutenant was directing the investigation and made a lot of critical decisions. To ask him to reexamine the decisions made during Rich's arrest—it supports our argument that they violated his civil rights," Baird says. "It begs the question, could someone have examined the complaint more thoroughly? I don't like to use the word cover-up, but it looks like they already knew what their finding was going to be—of course they found no wrongdoing—and they just conducted an investigation to support those findings."
The complaint stemmed from an arrest that took place last year at a Wallingford billiards club. Richard Burgess was shooting pool after work, and (as always) had a Glock strapped to his hip with two clips. The visible gun prompted a call to the police and a verbal altercation between Burgess and another patron. Burgess went outside and waited for the police to arrive, so they would clarify to the owner of the bar that there is no law against openly carrying a firearm. The police, understanding only that there was a man with a gun in the parking lot, swarmed him, took his gun, and placed him under arrest. When they realized they couldn't put any weapons charges on him—he has a permit to carry a pistol—he was charged with breach of peace, according to the lawsuit. The five officers who showed up to arrest Burgess, not sure what they could charge him with, called Lieutenant Anthony Martino, according to the complaint, who recommended they charge him with breach of peace until they figure out if he violated any laws relating to his unconcealed weapon.
The charge of breach of peace was eventually dismissed in court on May 25, 2010, when the prosecutor found there was no probable cause for arrest.
On July 18, 2011, Burgess filed a lawsuit against the city and the police department as well. He later found out through a Freedom of Information Act request that Lt. Martino was consulted over the phone and instructed them to charge him with breach of peace. The complaint was resolved and no wrongdoing was found.
Ed Perutta is a gun rights advocate who is close to Burgess. After the arrest, Perutta went down to Yale Billiards to talk to the owner and get his side of the story. Perutta says he was shocked to find the same cops who arrested Burgess at the scene the next day.
Being a small town, Wallingford has a more open internal affairs process than big cities like New Haven. People can file complaints over the phone, through e-mail, even through text message, according to Lieutenant Marc Mikulski, who typically handles internal affairs investigations. In 2011 the department only received seven complaints from citizens. In 2010, there were 11 citizen complaints, Mikulski says.