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Porn probe spurs exits by police sergeant, dispatcher

Exterior of the Southampton Village Police Dept. in

Exterior of the Southampton Village Police Dept. in Southampton. (July 8, 2010) Photo Credit: Gordon M. Grant

A probe into sexually explicit computer messages in the workplace led to the retirement of a veteran Southampton Village police sergeant and the resignation of a 911 dispatcher, according to village officials.

Pornography was also found on the department-owned computer of a third employee, who remains on the job.

Sgt. Arthur Schucht filed his retirement papers after being informed in April of a review of computer hard drives that later uncovered explicit e-mails and chat messages, officials said.

A female 911 dispatcher also resigned after being told of the investigation, citing personal reasons, according to Chief William Wilson Jr.

Village Mayor Mark Epley said the review by a private consultant company begun in the spring and completed last month turned up explicit messages linked to the pair.

Epley, who said he has not been told details about the contents of the messages or images, called the findings "separate incidents" and said the sergeant and dispatcher were not messaging one another.

About a dozen pornographic images and videos were discovered on a computer hard drive used exclusively by a civilian employee who has not been disciplined, Epley said.

"That issue is going to be resolved with that person. There was an investigation and then a discussion," he said. "It's up to that person right now and we'd like it to be resolved like the other ones."

No disciplinary action was taken against Schucht or the 911 dispatcher. Schucht was with the department 28 years; his retirement took effect May 22. His pension calculation is not yet complete, according to the state comptroller's office.

Epley said the "safety sensitive" nature of police work, rather than the content of the materials, was the paramount issue.

"Anyone in the department is held to a higher standard, and when they're on the job, they're responsible for public safety," he said. "If they're doing these other things, there are going to be consequences."

Wilson Friday called the 10-week investigation completed last month "an employee matter, not a criminal matter" and said "the investigative portion of it is exhausted."

Epley said the village attorney was reviewing the case of the third employee but has not specified what law might have been broken. Since the investigation began, the police department has tightened its computer use policy and installed new software to help spot or block pornography or sexually explicit messages, officials said.

With Bart Jones

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