Bethlehem Police Benevolent Association President Scott Anson, speaking at the Wednesday, Sept. 9, Bethlehem Town Board meeting, said embattled officer Chris Hughes has the union's support and hopes the officer will soon return to work.
However, in a later interview, Anson said the union supported Hughes in regard to employment issues, but to say the union backed Hughes carte blanche would be incorrect.
"The union's issue is with the process," Anson said. "His issue with the chief is not our issue."
Hughes made allegations in May that Bethlehem Police Chief Louis Corsi used a racial slur in a recorded telephone conversation more than two years ago. Hughes has been subject to two 30-day suspensions for separate occurrences of falsifying a time sheet and "insubordination and failure to act in proper manner to/with a superior officer" and has not been on duty since. On Friday, Sept. 4, Hughes was stripped of his badge and firearm, Supervisor Jack Cunningham said, after several news interviews in which Hughes said he was suffering from stress related to his job.
Anson encouraged the board to hire an independent party to investigate the claim of the racial slur. As it stands, Deputy Chief Timothy Beebe is handling the investigation " something Anson said is rife with conflict, as Beebe is a direct subordinate of Corsi.
"Deputy Chief Beebe answers to Chief Corsi," Anson told the board. "This gives the appearance of bias to my members. The town should have hired an independent investigator both parties could agree on."
Town Attorney James Potter said the town could not hire an independent investigator to handle the investigation as it involved poring over 51 CDs of audiotape " tape that includes sensitive information, according to Potter.
"These tapes contain police matters and need to be reviewed by police personnel," he said.