Joye Brown Newsday columnist Joye Brown

Joye Brown has been a columnist for Newsday since 2006. She joined the newspaper in 1983 and has worked as a reporter, an editor, newsroom administrator and editorial writer. Show More

A Nassau County jury did the right thing in acquitting an off-duty county police officer of harassment and resisting arrest charges.

The mystery is why their time -- and county taxpayer money -- was wasted on a case that could, and should, have been resolved internally by Nassau's police department.

Nobody wanted to talk about that, or any other aspect of the case against Dolores Sharpe, an African-American woman, Wednesday.

The Nassau district attorney's office, the police department and a representative of the police union all declined to comment. Could it be because the case is an embarrassment to the department?

An off-duty police officer asks a fellow, uniformed officer to move a patrol car so she can pull into a parking space in West Hempstead. And she ends up being arrested, suspended for 30 days without pay and tried on charges of harassment and resisting arrest.

How did she get there?

advertisement | advertise on newsday

On Nov. 29, 2013, Sharpe exchanged words with Officer Charles Volpe, who is white, after she asked him to move the patrol car, according to testimony.

It's important to note that Volpe, according to court testimony, initially didn't tell the district attorney's office about that first encounter.

And that's a glaring omission because what happened in their first meeting laid the groundwork for all that came after.

Sharpe -- who had identified herself as a Nassau police officer -- then went into a dollar store after pulling into the parking space.

Volpe, meanwhile, went off to find his partner, Victor Gladitz.

Sharpe's attorney, Frederick Brewington, said in court that Sharpe showed Volpe her badge and ID during their first meeting.

But Volpe and his partner nonetheless waited to pull Sharpe's car over for a traffic stop when she finished shopping -- because Volpe believed she was impersonating a police officer, testimony revealed.

During their second encounter, Volpe snatched Sharpe's ID from a chain around her neck. And on a cellphone recording Volpe made of the confrontation, Sharpe repeatedly was heard asking her fellow officers to call a supervisor.

She also was heard saying that she was a Nassau police officer.

Had Volpe walked away after their first encounter, there would have been no trial.

advertisement | advertise on newsday

Had he not doubled back with a partner because he doubted the word of a fellow officer, an African-American woman with 20 years of service, there would have been no trial.

Instead, the administration of former Nassau police Commissioner Thomas Dale made the call to arrest Sharpe, rather than have supervisors address the officers' differences internally. And it was Dale's call to suspend Sharpe without pay.

Dale would resign from his post a few weeks later after ordering another arrest -- of a witness in a politically motivated election case.

Did Dale, who could not be reached yesterday to comment, know about the first confrontation between Volpe and Sharpe? If so, would he have come to a different decision? And why did the DA's office, after learning of Volpe's omission on his first meeting with Sharpe, go on to prosecute?

Some answers may come should Sharpe, who cried as supporters cheered upon learning of her acquittal, pursue a civil case. Meanwhile, an internal police investigation of Volpe and his partner is continuing.