NBC 10 I-Team: RISP lieutenant says boss pressured him to change recruit background report

Rhode Island State Police

The NBC 10 I-Team has obtained an internal memo claiming a top commander at Rhode Island State Police pressured another trooper into changing the background investigation of a potential recruit who had multiple run-ins with police.

State police leadership are categorically denying any and all the allegations. The lieutenant said he did not change the record, and claimed he has been out on paid medical leave for more than three months over the ordeal.

“The pressure on me became so great,” Lt. Michael Casey wrote to internal affairs on September 24, 2018.

Casey is a 24-year veteran of the force. Last year, he was tasked with running a thorough background check on a then-23-year-old applicant, son of a retired state trooper, said the memo.

“At first, I was happy to have applicant (redacted) background, because I believed that in being a trooper’s son, he would be born, bred and groomed to personify what a trooper should be,” wrote Casey.

According to the memo reviewed by the I-Team, he soon discovered the young man had had quite a few brushes with the law, more than 20 contacts with police officers all over Rhode Island, and one arrest in Massachusetts, which he did not disclose.

Court records show the candidate was arrested in Agawam, Mass., for disorderly conduct in August of 2013, after he refused to leave Six Flags New England amusement park with a friend. In his report, the arresting officer said he used obscene language in front of school aged children and even named dropped his father to the Massachusetts officer, some 100 miles away from Rhode Island.

“My father is a state trooper. You’re f***ed! Do you hear me? You’re f***ed!” said court documents obtained by the I-Team.

The charge was later dismissed with court costs.

Casey went on to write that he was pressured by state police brass, namely Lt. Col. Joseph Philbin, to bury the young man’s past and give the candidate a green light. While meeting with Philbin in April 2018, Casey said he was worried about the recruit process and hiring the best candidates for the job.

“During this approximate one hour interrogation/meeting, I was pressured by Lt. Colonel Philbin to change my narrative, that (the retired trooper) was a good guy and to give his son one more chance,” according to the interdepartmental memo.

“I am not changing anything,” wrote Casey.

When reached by the I-Team at his home, Casey confirmed the authenticity of his memo and that he was on leave, but wouldn’t comment further. While on leave, Casey continues to earn a $141,000 base salary, according to state payroll records.

Responding to the I-Team’s request for comment, a state police spokeswoman said the applicant in question is not a recruit or alternate in the 2019 State Police Academy, beginning in mid-January.

While Casey’s most recent complaint alleges interference in 2018, his internal report said he believed a separate background report he prepared, involving a longtime applicant, was altered. The candidate first applied to be a state trooper in 2011 and Casey was given the duty of checking out his past. The candidate also had strong political ties.

According to his internal memo, Casey said he discovered what he described as “a very simple issue,” a parking lot incident while the candidate was a student at East Greenwich High School, but decided to question the potential recruit about it anyway. Casey said the candidate could have explained the incident as a youthful mistake or just a bad day at school, but decided the young man was being deceitful, according to the report. He did not make the cut.

In 2018, Casey said he learned the potential recruit from 2011 had been hired as a local police officer, but once again was trying to become a state trooper. Casey checked the state police computer system and said he found his earlier background report had been altered, with his negative comments deleted from the file. Who deleted the negative comments? That is not known. And the state police spokeswoman told the I-Team that this applicant is also not part of the 2019 Academy class.

In Casey’s memo, obtained by the I-Team, he wrote that he was also sending it to Assumpico. In a Christmas Eve announcement of Assumpico’s retirement, Gov. Gina Raimondo said, "She has shown a consistent focus on increasing opportunities for women and people of color in law enforcement, and because of her hard work, next month's Training Academy will be the most diverse in state history.”

The department, which is steeped in rich tradition, competitiveness, and held to the highest standard in state law enforcement, has faced recent criticism for a lack of diversity. Records show during the last academy class of 2016, 26 recruits graduated, including one Hispanic man, one woman, and 24 white men.

Casey said he believed the colonel was being kept in the dark prior to his memo.

“It became very clear at this time that Lt. Colonel Philbin was doing all of this subversion in the recruit selection process without the professional standards unit or the Colonel being aware,” wrote Casey.

The NBC 10 I-Team asked State Police to address the allegations. Assumpico and Philbin declined to be interviewed.

Assumpico released a strongly-worded statement, which said in part, “I immediately ordered a thorough internal investigation, which concluded that these allegations were completely without merit and lacked any evidence.” The colonel added that the internal investigation found absolutely no evidence that Philbin or anyone else influenced the recruit screening process.

Assumpico is scheduled to leave the job in late January. The governor has named retired State Police Major, and current Narragansett Town Manager James Manni, as Assumpico’s eventual replacement.

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