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EXCLUSIVE: Bethlehem cop alleges department racism and town cover up

13-year veteran suspended from the force, says chief ordered alleged audio tapes destroyed

Bethlehem police officer Christopher Hughes says he is being targeted for disciplinary action after talking to Town Supervisor Jack Cunningham about alleged racist remarks made by Police Chief Louis Corsi.

Hughes said he spoke with Cunningham at the supervisor's home on Sunday, May 17, about a taped audio conversation in which Corsi used a racial slur. Days later, Hughes said, he received a notice of intent to conduct interrogation about the conversation. In a formal complaint filed with the Albany County District Attorney Public Integrity Unit on May 27, Hughes said, "Town Attorney Michael Smith stated the town was seeking my termination, and I could be facing possible criminal charges based on my conversation with Cunningham."

District Attorney David Soares spokeswoman Heather Orth confirmed there is an investigation into the alleged comments and the resulting fallout, but could say little else.

"We don't comment on ongoing cases in the public integrity unit," she told The Spotlight on Saturday, May 30.

The police department's deputy chief, Timothy Beebe, said he, too, couldn't comment.

"Because this is being handled as a personnel matter, all comments are being directed to our town attorney," Beebe said.

Town Attorney James Potter said the alleged tapes were from three years ago and that to his knowledge, no tapes on file at the police department have ever been purposely erased.

"This alleged tape would be roughly three years old to the best of our knowledge," he said. "Everyone who had access or authority over the tapes has been interviewed."

The department currently records over audiotape after 30 days, according to Potter, but that system "wasn't in place back then."

Under a Civil Rights law, police personnel records are confidential and not privy to Freedom of Information Law requests.

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