An off-duty Nassau County police officer celebrating the Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade with his family is being investigated for using shredded but still-legible police records as confetti, according to a law enforcement source.
Internal Affairs detectives believe that the officer was careless but "had no malice" when he took the shredded papers from a police building for use at the Manhattan parade, the source said.
"He took trash," he said. "He threw them up as confetti."
Among the hundreds of shreds hurled in the air were papers containing Nassau police detectives' names, Social Security numbers and vehicle information, as well as what appeared to be bank records.
The confetti landed on parade-goers at 65th Street and Central Park West who were surprised to find apparently confidential information, including details of Mitt Romney's motorcade used for last month's presidential debate on Long Island.
The source said the shredded papers consisted mostly of training materials. The lists of officers' names and other personal details were compiled in order to comply with federal requirements for a multiagency partnership, in one instance with the U.S. Marshals Service.
As of late Tuesday afternoon, Internal Affairs had not interviewed the officer linked to the confetti, the source said.
"We haven't been able to connect our investigators' schedules with his schedule," the source said. He said the department knew the officer's unit by late Thursday and his identity by Friday.
The source declined to provide the cop's name, but said he was a rank-and-file officer, not a supervisor.
In the wake of the incident, the department said it plans to improve its document-destruction procedures. Currently, only investigative files are shredded and burned.
Other documents, including administrative papers are shredded once. From now on they'll be shredded twice, the source said, eliminating the possibility of leaving any legible material. The device used on the documents brought to the parade cut papers into horizontal strips, the least secure shredding method.
"The shredder's not the best shredder," the source conceded.
Late Sunday, detectives went to the Upper West Side apartment of the family who discovered the confetti and who had alerted the media days earlier.
Saul Finkelstein, an attorney who attended the parade with his son Ethan and friends, said the detectives jotted down a statement and took the confetti the family had gathered. Only after Finkelstein left a message with the department's press office did the detectives visit.
Depending on what the investigation finds, the officer involved faces a range of potential discipline, such as lost time off and mandatory training.
The officer's union, the Nassau Police Benevolent Association, did not return calls Tuesday seeking comment.