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Long IslandColumnistsJoye Brown

Suffolk promotion during probe goes south

What goes up, must go down.

Or at least that’s what’s been happening in Suffolk’s police department.

Last week, a police lieutenant, Paul Memay, was demoted by Commissioner Tim Sini — months after Sini took a chance by promoting Memay, while he was under investigation by the department’s internal affairs division.

The investigation was to determine whether Memay, who was in charge of applicant investigations at the police academy, gave a subordinate’s stepson, Christopher McAdam, not one or two, but three attempts to pass a physical agility hiring test.

At the time, Sini justified the move by saying he didn’t want Memay to lose his chance at promotion. Once the investigation was completed, Sini said, he would review the findings, and if necessary, rescind the promotion.

Which is what Sini ended up doing, county and union sources told Newsday’s Rick Brand.

Also as a result of the probe, departmental charges have been leveled against the former head of recruit training at the police academy, and a high-level Police Benevolent Association official who also worked with recruits, county sources said.

At issue was whether, as county civil service officials contended, McAdam received an extra test, along with extra time to prepare for it. Which, they said, gave him an unfair advantage over 75 other candidates who failed the agility test, and the single retest allowed.

McAdam went to court to appeal his firing, but a judge determined that it was justified.

The investigation began after Suffolk officials received an anonymous letter.

Sound familiar?

It should since another anonymous letter, involving allegations against former police Chief of Department James Burke, ended up amounting to a warning against promoting Burke to the department’s highest uniformed position.

In that case, the warning didn’t prompt Suffolk County Executive Steve Bellone, who last month said the letter “seemed crazy to me, honestly,” to more aggressively screen Burke.

Instead, Bellone said he relied on a recommendation from Burke’s mentor, Suffolk District Attorney Thomas Spota, who, in turn, said he never vouched for Burke’s character to Bellone. Spota did, however, send a letter to Long Island Association head Kevin Law refuting allegations in the anonymous letter. Bellone and Spota for a long time defended Burke, until Bellone said he fired the police chief shortly before he was indicted on federal charges.

Burke remains in custody awaiting sentencing after pleading guilty to federal charges related to the beating of a suspect, who was chained to the floor in a police precinct, and a conspiracy to cover up that beating.

Fast forward to Memay, where, an anonymous letter sent to officials last year did trigger an investigation.

Which neither stopped, nor stalled Memay’s promotion as investigators continued their work.

Sini said he is seeking reforms to tighten up testing procedures. Still, the decision to promote Memay reflects poorly on Sini’s initial judgment just as the decision to promote and defend Burke reflects badly on Bellone’s.

And then there’s the impact on public’s perception of how Suffolk works.

Which takes yet another beating.

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