Officer Thomas Welsh, 48, a 25-year veteran of the force, was released on his own recognizance after pleading not guilty in First District Court in Hempstead to charges of petty larceny and possession of burglary tools.
Charging papers assert Welsh stole organic baby food from the Stop & Shop supermarket on Cherry Valley Lane, placing pouches of baby food into two plastic bags attached to a bungee cord he wore around his neck. The bags and cords were covered by a jacket, according to court papers.
Welsh's attorney, Paul Portz of Westbury, denied the allegations, saying that the charges are "out of character with his service to the community."
"He's been a police officer for 26 years. There's never been any allegations against him, and obviously he's never been arrested," Portz said. He said Welsh is married with three children, including a 16-month-old, and his family stands by him.
Portz said he is investigating the allegations and didn't comment further.
No one answered the door Thursday afternoon at Welsh's Garden City home.
It is unclear what led to the arrest of Welsh, who was off-duty when authorities said the incident took place. He was arrested by the department's Internal Affairs Unit the day after the alleged theft -- after he surrendered at headquarters in Mineola.
Welsh was suspended without pay for 30 days, the maximum allowed under the union contract. On the job since 1986, Welsh earned $147,607.43 in 2010, including base salary and overtime, according to county payroll records. He is assigned to the police department's records bureau, which helps handle gun-permit requests, processes prisoners and tests suspected drunken drivers.
In 1997, Welsh was given a Top Cop award, a precinct-level honor bestowed upon police officers for exemplary work. He got the award for helping to restrain a drunken man in East Rockaway who had a gun and was threatening to kill himself and his wife.