The Albany Times Union by CAROL DeMARE - March 13, 2009
ALBANY, NEW YORK - A city police officer who was fired last week admitted to authorities he showed up for work after smoking pot and used cocaine at a bar during a Super Bowl party two days earlier, according to an arbitrator's report. The admissions by Thomas Towsley, 49, whose 12-year career ended March 5 when he was fired by Chief James Tuffey, are detailed in a 23-page report by arbitrator Sheila S. Cole. Tuffey made the report available. Two officers who were on the same shift as Towsley at Center Station testified at a hearing they smelled marijuana emanating from Towsley during roll call on Feb. 5, 2008. One of the officers informed a sergeant of the incident. The next day, he was suspended after being interviewed by internal affairs detectives and admitting he had used marijuana before reporting for work that day and also that he had smoked pot occasionally for five years, Cole said in her report.
Towsley told internal affairs officers that during the 2008 Super Bowl on Feb. 3, he used cocaine while at Graney's Bar, a popular spot for off-duty cops and politicians. The arbitrator ruled that termination was an acceptable penalty. "You failed to keep your private life untarnished and failed to obey the laws of the country, state, city and department." Albany attorney David Ehrlich, who represents Towsley, said, "My client and I disagree with the content of the arbitrator's decision, and he continues to look at all his options as to how to proceed." The report notes that police Commander Daniel Colonno described Towsley "as an informal leader in his squad and one of the more seasoned and level-headed officers. He is an officer supervisors went to when they needed something done with a level of expertise." The circumstances surrounding the cocaine use drew questions from the arbitrator. The officer said he went into the men's room, noticed a pile of white powder on the sink, dipped his finger in the powder and tasted it, then rubbed some on his teeth and gums.
That testimony "was so unbelievable as to be absurd," Cole wrote. She suggested, "This story conveniently places no responsibility on Towsley for obtaining the controlled substance and relieves him of the responsibility of being questioned about his source." Dr. Warren Silverman of Access Health, who analyzed Towsley's urine test results of Feb. 6, 2008, provided by LabCorp, said the officer's positive readings for marijuana and cocaine "were unusually high." Marijuana, the doctor said, may remain in the body for a month. But cocaine is water soluble and quickly excreted. Towsley's high levels of the narcotic were inconsistent with his assertion that the last time he ingested it was Feb. 3, the doctor said. Towsley completed a drug and alcohol rehab program at St. Peter's Hospital, but the arbitrator noted he admitted himself only after he was suspended. Carol DeMare can be reached at 454-5431 or by e-mail at email@example.com.