The East Windsor Police Department terminated a 17-year veteran of their force after his actions while responding to a call led to a police pursuit and an arrest over the state border.
This happened following a pursuit earlier this year, one which police brass said crossed the line.
Things came to a head between East Windsor Police and a suspect they were pursuing on the northbound side of I-91 on March 7.
A person driving the vehicle with the suspect inside pulled over, but the Connecticut officers arrested him over the state line in Massachusetts, even though Connecticut police have no law enforcement powers there.
On March 7, Sgt. David McNeice was working inside the East Windsor PD on alternate duty due to pending back surgery.
A call came in for a domestic disturbance and there was a warrant for the same suspect involved for violating a protective order. The suspect had just left the scene.
Despite his alternate duty status, an internal affairs report states that McNeice got in a squad car, without his uniform, service weapon, handcuffs, police radio, or body camera and began following the suspect without lights and sirens, along with another officer under his command.
McNeice’s dash cam was not on until he hit a speed of 85 miles per hour, the default setting that trips the camera. McNeice’s speed topped out at 107 at one point, according to East Windsor Police.
All of this prompted an internal affairs investigation for multiple alleged violations of department procedures.
McNeice wanted his disciplinary hearing before the town’s police commission conducted in public, which is how NBC Connecticut Investigates gained access to dash cam and bodycam video that’s still part of a criminal case against the suspect. East Windsor Police did not identify the suspect because it’s possible charges against him could be dropped.
“I made a timely decision, in which I believed that the suspect, who had already had a felony violation of protective order arrest warrant for the same type of event, posed a danger to the victim, and that danger outweighed my alternative duty restriction. But I know now that this call was not mine to be made,” McNeice said during his hearing.
It’s how McNeice responded to the criticism of his actions that concerned his chief, who referred to a passage in McNeice’s internal affairs interview where McNeice said…"I’ve always believed that if you’re doing the right thing for the right reason…then you’re going to be justified…this felt like the right thing at the right time."
"He lacks any contrition, he deflected, he does not accept responsibility for his actions, nor did he learning anything from his actions, so I can only be left to assume that Sergeant McNeice will do this again," Chief Edward DeMarco said during the disciplinary hearing.
In the end, police commissioners voted unanimously to terminate McNeice.
“We recognize Sgt. McNeice’s almost 17 years of service to the town, and the accolades that he’s earned. But there are major concerns” said Robert Leach, chairman of the East Windsor Police Commission.
The only public comments at McNeice’s hearing came from his supporters in town.
Chief James Barton from the Warehouse Point Fire District in East Windsor said, “I’m appalled at this decision, he made a mistake, he realized he made a mistake.”
“You’re losing our votes here. This was not right. He’s a good guy,” said Rick Paradise of East Windsor.
Caren Paradise added, “You’ve really done an injustice here. He really was an asset to this town.”
Neither East Windsor Police nor McNeice, nor his union, would grant us an interview.
McNeice also said during his hearing, “I’ve gladly sacrificed weekends, holidays, birthdays….so I could serve and protect the residents of East Windsor.”
The union representing McNeice said in part, “He is deeply committed to protecting the East Windsor community. His actions on March 7 were motivated by that desire to keep the public safe.“ See the full union statement below.
That may be true. But taking a squad car while on alternate duty, engaging in a high-speed pursuit without lights and sirens, handcuffs, a service weapon, or a portable radio, and doing this while not in uniform raises questions.
Despite all that, McNeice’s union is trying to get him reinstated.
The East Windsor Police Department said the other officer involved has not been disciplined beyond some retraining because he was under McNeice’s command.
Full Statement from Sgt. Jeffrey Reimer, President, East Windsor Police Union, AFSCME Local 3583 - June 11, 2021
“Our union believes the East Windsor Police Commission made a gross error in terminating Sgt. McNeice’s employment. We have begun the process of seeking to have Sgt. McNeice reinstated.
“Sgt. McNeice is a 17-year veteran of the Department with a flawless record that includes awards and commendations. He is deeply committed to protecting the East Windsor community. His actions on March 7 were motivated by that desire to keep the public safe.
"The action taken against Sgt. McNeice has clearly angered our community and our members in the Police Department. The public should know there has been no criminal investigation into Sgt. McNeice’s action and no charges filed against him to date. To suggest otherwise is just plain wrong.
“It’s our position as a union that Sgt. McNeice was fired without just cause. We will take the necessary legal steps through our collective bargaining agreement to see that he gets his job back and is made whole for any losses.”