Monday, May 17, 2021

Officer Dismissed for the Third Time

Submitted Photo | John Derrig

On Friday, January 17th, the Marco Island Police Department provided a short news release which announced that Police Officer John Derrig has been terminated from employment from the city’s Police Department. 

The press announcement simply read, “On January 17, 2020, John Derrig’s employment as a Marco Island Police Officer was terminated following an internal investigation. Charges were sustained for the following broad categories: failure to respond to medical calls, untruthfulness during the investigation, failure to follow direct orders from supervisors, and unauthorized use of departmental time.” No further information was made available to the public. 

This will be Derrig’s third dismissal from the department since joining it in 2005. The first two dismissals were appealed and went to arbitration which required he be reinstated  

First Dismissal 

Derrig was initially separated from the department in 2010 by former Police Chief Tom Carr. He was dismissed after an internal investigation found him to be “untruthful” and “insubordinate” in his duties at that time. 

Derrig was eventually reinstated as a result of arbitration and returned to service after retraining and a subsequent counseling program, returning to duty after successful completion of those requirements. 

Second Dismissal 

The second dismissal came about regarding the reopening of an investigation initially started by then Sgt. Lind Guerrero in 2012 and then reopened in 2013. It was the fruit of another inquiry being done by then Sgt. Linda Guerrero in August of 2012 regarding an unrelated matter. 

This time, Derrig was being accused, but never charged, regarding an altercation which occurred 7 years previous on New Year’s 2007/2008. This new case was opened and assigned to Asst. Chief Baer for an internal investigation which began formally in June of 2013, with Chief Hunter listed as the complainant. Facts concerning a possible breach of department General Orders were uncovered regarding Derrig’s actions concerning the alleged misuse of force and other violations of the General Orders of the department which govern the actions of officers. 

Prior to the new IA investigation being opened in 2013 by order of former Chief Hunter, both the FDLE and the States Attorney’s Office declined to move forward on the information provided due to the expiration of the statute of limitations on a criminal case of battery. The criminal case was subsequently closed by Marco Police and the IA investigation was opened to review the details surrounding the allegations. 

At the conclusion of the IA investigation, Asst. Chief Baer found that charges in 5 of the 6 allegations had been sustained and his report was forwarded to Chief Hunter for his disposition.  

Another subsequent investigation begafor a second incident in August of 2013. This incident was in regards to a chase involving another Marco resident. The case was made by the Administrative Staff that Derrig had initiated an unnecessary pursuit on August 18, 2013, and had violated department regulations regarding the drawing of his weapon, in addition to showing a reckless disregard for the safety of his fellow officers. He was also accused of not filing the appropriate Use of Force Report Form. 

Some officers on Derrig’s squad voiced concerns with the incident, but Lt. Tony Spina commented in his reports that the incident was not a “firing” situation but did warrant some type of disciplinary action. 

A pre-disciplinary hearing was held prior to thenChief Hunter making his final recommendation. This is a process called out by State Statute F.S. 112 and is a requirement under the General Orders of the MIPD. Officer Derrig and his legal representative were given their opportunity at this hearing to rebut the findings of Asst. Chief Baer. 

As a result of that hearing, Chief Hunter determined there was no reason not to forward his recommendation for dismissal for final disposition by the City Manager as provided for under the State Statute. That was in December of 2013.  

That recommendation was held until the first week in March of 2014 when it and the entire case file was handdelivered by thenPolice Chief Don Hunter to Marco’s new city manager Roger Hernstadt, who had been on the job for only 30 days. After an approximate 3-month review by City Manager Hernstadt, the city opted to officially release Officer Derrig from employment. 

Derrig would once again file a grievance regarding his separation from duty. In a ruling handed down by the Federal Mediation and Conciliation Service on November 23, 2015, former police officer John Derrig was ordered to be reinstated to his position on the Marco Island Police Department. 

The arbitrator would find no merit to the 5 allegations of misconduct claimed by then Asst. Chief Baer and Chief Hunter in the first set of charges related to the incident at the Bombay Club, and called into serious question the process and management by the administrative staff that was in charge during that time. 

Regarding the second incident, the arbitrator found that Derrig did not show any willful or wanton disregard for his employer’s interest, did not commit any acts of employee misconduct, and his conduct was not counter to the agency’s work performance standards and rules. 

The union’s claim that Derrig had been retaliated against was found to be meritorious by the arbitrator and he subsequently ordered that Derrig be reinstated to his police officer position with full back pay. That his seniority, medical and all other benefits be restored. 

As a result of that incident, Officer Derrig was taken off the nightshift in September of 2013 and placed on dayshift under closer supervision. On October 4th, 2013 Derrig was relieved of his law enforcement responsibilities and assigned to administrative responsibilities. Derrig alleged that action, and his assignment to demeaning tasks were aimed at punishment and had nothing to do with rehabilitative value. 

The arbitrator hearing the case cited testimony given by Sergeant Nick Giansanti and then Lt. Tony Spina to support Derrig’s assertions that he had been truthful, and nothing supported the allegations that Derrig had been involved in improper conduct.  

Dash Cam Video was also shown during the hearings, wherein Officer Derrig is shown to treat the subject with what is described as “dignity, respect and kindness,” according to the arbitrator in his report. The subject was convicted of fleeing and eluding a law enforcement officer, driving while under permanent suspension, driving under the influence, refusal to submit to testing and criminal traffic citations. 

Derrig would once again be returned to duty in early 2016, this time under his third chief since joining the department. Chief Al Schettino assumed command of the department after Chief Hunter had tended his resignation in June of 2015. 

Third Dismissal 

The decision regarding whether or not Derrig was to be dismissed, initially laid with new Police Chief Tracy Frazzano. Upon making that decision, she forwarded her finding to City Manager Michael McNees for final dispensation. Now that the city has moved ahead with a dismissal order charging Derrig with failure to respond to medical calls, untruthfulness during the investigation, failure to follow direct orders from supervisors, and unauthorized use of departmental time the city can only wait for the next shoe to fall in the ongoing saga surrounding Officer Derrig. 

It is anticipated that Officer Derrig will once again file a grievance and the same process will once again be enacted and the city will have to wait on a ruling from a third party before any final resolution is reached in regard to the disposition of this case.  

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