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Sunday, April 15, 2012

Police Sergeant Sues Town Over His Domestic Violence Arrest

East Hartford Police Sergeant Sues Vernon Over Arrest
The Hartford Courant by David Owens - April 11, 2012

VERNON, CT - An East Hartford police sergeant who lives in Vernon is suing the town over his arrest on domestic violence charges last summer. Sgt. Peter Vanek, 48, claims in his federal lawsuit that a Vernon police sergeant used unreasonable force when he handcuffed Vanek, inflicting pain and "temporary partial disability." Vanek alleges that Sgt. Dan Moore "intentionally and maliciously affixed the handcuffs far too tightly and intentionally did not double lock them, with the intended result that they became increasingly tighter and inflicted substantial and entirely unnecessary pain upon the plaintiff." Double-locking handcuffs prevents them from getting tighter around the wrists of a person who has been arrested. Vanek further claims that Vernon knew Moore was "mentally and emotionally unstable" and failed to get him counseling or assistance. Moore took his own life earlier this year. The lawsuit was filed on Vanek's behalf by New Haven attorney John R. Williams. Vanek's claim is contradicted by police reports prepared by Moore and Officer Chris Hunt. Both made clear in their reports that they followed Vernon Police Department policy and that the handcuffs placed on Vanek were double-locked. Two other Vernon officers also responded to the call involving Vanek. Police were called to Vanek's home by his ex-wife on Aug. 17, 2011. She went there to pick up their two children and was running late, according to the report. She told the Vernon officers that Vanek ran toward her car, said "you're late, you're late," called her a "scumbag" in front of their two boys and kicked her car, leaving a dent. Vanek and his current wife deny that Vanek kicked the car. The children said they did not see or hear their father kick the car. Vernon police took an impression of Vanek's foot and of a footprint left on the car. Moore wrote in his report that "while speaking with Peter I could smell a heavy odor of alcoholic beverage emitting from his breath. His eyes were also glossy and bloodshot." Although Hunt was the investigating officer, Moore said he placed Vanek under arrest. "Given the fact that Vanek was in an agitated and intoxicated state I handcuffed him," Moore wrote in his report. "The handcuffs were double locked." Because police considered the case a domestic violence incident, Vanek was arrested and charged with breach of peace, taken into custody and later released without having to post bail. The lawsuit was filed in March. The case against Vanek ended in December when a prosecutor entered a nolle, or declined to prosecute.

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