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Officer faces disciplinary process

A longtime veteran Niskayuna cop is facing disciplinary action after having been accused of driving drunk during a late-night incident in Guilderland earlier this month.

Citing the confidentiality of personnel decisions, Niskayuna town officials are offering only a limited explanation of the actions being considered against Robert Werner, and it is unclear whether he is facing removal from the force.

However, town Supervisor Luke Smith said Monday that Werner's case is one of the most serious ones he has seen involving a Niskayuna officer. We have had some little incidents involving police over the years for small infractions, but nothing like this has happened before, the supervisor said.

The allegation against Werner first surfaced publicly during an Aug. 15 town board meeting when police Chief Lewis Moskowitz requested authorization to bring the 15-year officer up on departmental charges. The town board unanimously approved the chief's request without debate.

State police have alleged that the 40-year-old officer was driving drunk on Aug. 5 during an accident in which he allegedly ran off the road along West Lydius Street in Guilderland. No one was injured in the late night off-duty incident that took place shortly before 5 a.m. Werner was subsequently suspended without pay for 30 days pending the outcome of departmental charges.

The time off without pay is standard procedure under Niskayuna's contract with the union representing its police officers. Unions representing police officers throughout much of the Capital District, including those serving larger area cities like Albany and Schenectady, have similar provisions in their contracts as well.

Once Werner's initial suspension is complete, he may end up back on the payroll but not necessarily in uniform. The decision on whether he returns to active duty awaits the outcome of the disciplinary process. Werner's departmental record during his years of service will be reviewed as part of that process, Moskowitz said in a statement.

"We're moving forward with disciplinary charges against this officer in light of what is alleged to have taken place," said Smith. "We are taking the actions that are necessary to assure the safety of the public." Under the town's police contract, Werner will have legal representation available to him during the disciplinary proceeding, Smith added.

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