Mass. internal affairs cop may have had external one

Posted Aug. 21, 2011, at 6:26 a.m.

HAVERHILL, Mass. — A police lieutenant in charge of the department’s internal affairs was himself the focus of a secret police investigation where he was videotaped numerous times spending hours at a woman’s home while on duty and then lied about it to his superiors.

John D. Rogers, 48, a police officer of 23 years, retired June 23, shortly before police Chief Alan DeNaro submitted a June 29 report saying he was prepared to fire Rogers. DeNaro cited 10 Police Department rules Rogers had violated, including immoral conduct, neglect of duty, conduct unbecoming an officer, unsatisfactory performance, truthfulness as well as having violated department rules about internal records and confidentiality.

“Due to the severity of these violations it is my recommendation that Lieutenant John Rogers should be terminated from employment as a police officer for the city of Haverhill,” DeNaro wrote. “Due to the fact that Lieutenant Rogers retired effective June 23, 2011, no further action will be taken on this investigation.”

According to the police internal affairs report on Rogers, the secret videotaping occurred on 11 occasions between March 11 and June 3 and showed him spending anywhere from one to more than four hours at a woman’s home. When questioned about his whereabouts on June 10, Rogers lied to investigators, the report states.

In his role as police internal affairs investigator, Rogers examined possible wrongdoing by officers in the department. When asked by a reporter about any possible wrongdoing on his part, Rogers said “I have no comment.” He now has a law office in the city.

In July, the city Retirement Board unanimously approved Rogers’ request for a pension. His estimated $38,530 annual pension is based on 41.85 percent of $92,067, the average of his three highest-paid consecutive years on the force.

The investigation began after DeNaro was notified last November that Rogers was spending an excess amount of time at a woman’s address while on duty and the chief ordered an investigation.

The report noted that a camera police tried to set up in December at the address he was visiting while on duty did not become operational until March of this year. Deputy Chief Donald Thompson’s chronological report to DeNaro noted 11 instances where Rogers was videotaped arriving at the (woman’s) house while he was on duty. On two occasions, Rogers was at the home for more than four hours, one occasion more than three hours, and six occasions more than two hours.

While Rogers was being investigated, a woman met with police to say she and Rogers had been dating and that during a heated argument May 26 he tried to choke her. The woman reported the incident to police on June 6, and was subsequently granted a restraining order against Rogers, according to court documents.

Paperwork in Newburyport District Court shows the woman who took out the restraining order was Deniella Sollinger of Haverhill. A few weeks after Rogers’ retirement, Sollinger came to The Eagle-Tribune to talk about why she took out the restraining order and said it was her home Rogers was visiting while on duty.

“The bottom line is he ripped off the community,” she said of Rogers staying with her while on duty.

In her signed affidavit, Sollinger said that in the days following their argument, Rogers pleaded with her not to report it. She wrote he threatened her by saying she wasn’t a lawyer and that she didn’t know how to “twist things.”

“He continued to tell me to meet him at the law office on Kenoza Ave. and take a check for $10,000 in which I did not and decided I needed to just report the fight we had,” she wrote.

The internal affairs report provided to The Eagle-Tribune redacts the name of the woman. City Solicitor William Cox Jr. said he redacted portions of the report in order to maintain the confidentiality of witnesses as well as not to prejudice the possibility of effective law enforcement.

Thompson’s report states that police Capt. Michael Wrenn met with the woman seeking the restraining order June 7 for a two-hour interview. During the interview the woman stated Rogers often visited her “at night when he was working. Often two or three nights per week and that the visits would last from about 1 a.m. to 5 or 6 a.m. During that time the two would eat and the Lieutenant would take a nap. When the lieutenant was sleeping she would monitor the radio for the lieutenant’s calls.”

The woman also talked to investigators about going on rides with Rogers in police vehicles, including one instance where Rogers was on a surveillance mission, and that Rogers revealed sensitive information about a police investigation. The woman told investigators about having proofread Rogers’ report before it was submitted to the chief.

Rogers filed for his retirement on June 22, and the next day he entered a motion in Newburyport District Court to have a restraining order against him vacated. The motion was granted by the court.

On June 23, Sollinger agreed to have the restraining order vacated. The reason she gave to the court was: “He is my best friend and love of my life. He needs to know if it happens again I can return and will keep the next one if allowed.”

According to Thompson’s report, Rogers was interviewed June 10 in the Detectives Interview Room. Rogers was accompanied by his union lawyer, Steven Pfaff, and union president Sgt. Robert Pistone.

During the interview, Rogers, on advice from his lawyer, declined to speak about his restraining order or the assault detailed in the order.

When asked how long he would stay at the woman’s house, Rogers stated that he would stay up to an hour at most, and that sometimes he would have dinner there. When asked if he would stay longer, four or five hours, Rogers answered “no.”

When asked if he ever drove the woman around in a police vehicle, Rogers said he would sometimes pick her up and drive around for as long as one hour. He said he might go inside “perhaps for a drink or to use the bathroom.” He denied taking the woman with him when he was conducting surveillance missions, the report said.

When asked if he shared knowledge of an internal investigation with the woman, Rogers claimed that his computer had been “hacked.”

Rogers was then told the department had placed a camera to monitor his on-duty activity at the home. At that time he left the room to talk to his lawyer. He returned and told Thompson he stayed at the woman’s home for an hour and 15 minutes at most.

“Lieutenant Rogers was untruthful regarding the amount of on duty time he spent with (redacted) and I believe he is being untruthful here,” Thompson wrote.

Copyright (c) 2011, The Eagle-Tribune, North Andover, Mass.

Distributed by McClatchy-Tribune Information Services.

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