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Puskarcik resigned Monday amid an internal investigation

By Graig Graziosi

Tuesday, January 8, 2019

By Graig Graziosi

ggraziosi@vindy.com

CAMPBELL

Police Chief Dennis Puskarcik resigned Monday amid an internal investigation that was turned over to the state Bureau of Criminal Investigation.

Puskarcik came under investigation in late December after an allegation was made that he removed an item from an evidence locker without authorization.

Campbell Law Director Brian Macala would not say what was removed from the locker, but did confirm it was not drugs, guns or money.

Mayor Nick Phillips said Puskarcik was not fired or otherwise asked to step down, but resigned of his own accord.

In his resignation letter, Puskarcik wrote that his decision came after “being exonerated of any wrong doing” by the city’s investigation.

Phillips confirmed that claim in a statement Tuesday.

“After a thorough investigation, it was found that the integrity [of the] evidence room has not been compromised. Allegations of criminal conduct against Chief Puskarcik were unsubstantiated, and the investigation only revealed police infractions in the handling of evidence ordered for destruction,” Phillips wrote in the letter.

The BCI originally asked the city to conduct its own investigation, which was led by Lt. Kevin Sferra. The results of the city’s investigation were turned over to the BCI.

Phillips said that Sferra, the Campbell Police Department’s senior officer, will oversee day-to-day police operations until a new chief is chosen.

Puskarcik took over as chief in January 2017, where he made $48,500.

Before his stint as chief, Puskarcik worked as a school resource officer for the Palm Beach County School District and retired as a detective-sergeant from the Youngstown Police Department in 2003.

During his short time leading the Campbell police, Puskarcik introduced former YPD officer Delphine Baldwin-Casey’s Youth Police Academy summer program and expanded it to include a Citizen’s Police Academy.

The city also hired a community engagement officer during Puskarcik’s tenure.

Puskarcik replaced former police chief Drew Rauzan, who resigned amid a BCI investigation into sexual assault allegations. The resignation was tendered in exchange for the city rescinding its decision to terminate his position.

Rauzan maintains he is innocent of the allegations.

This is the second resignation tied to an incident in the evidence room the city has experienced in three years.

In January 2017, Sgt. David Taybus resigned after being placed on administrative leave during a criminal investigation into his handling of evidence. During that investigation, the station’s evidence room was temporarily sealed off.