One of Hempstead Village’s newest police officers, whom Mayor Don Ryan has described as his godson, was arrested seven years ago and served five days in jail, according to court records.
In 2010, Randy Stith, now 26, was charged with misdemeanor assault and criminal possession of a weapon for allegedly hitting a woman in the head with a bottle of bleach, splashing the chemical into her eyes, during a dispute over clothes at a Hempstead Laundromat, court records from the time show. He was 19.
Stith pleaded guilty to a second-degree harassment violation, which is not a criminal offense. He served five days in jail, paid $200 in fines and $120 in court surcharges and received a one-year conditional discharge, court records show.
Stith did not respond to requests for comment. He made reference to the arrest in a video posted to his Facebook page on May 14 in which he addresses opponents of his school board campaign.
“Since my little incident some seven years ago, which I was found un-guilty of, I have served the community as a member of the fire department,” he said in the video. “I am a three-year lieutenant. I respond to emergencies every day.”
The court records with Stith’s case dispositions are labeled “sealed,” but the Nassau County District Court in Hempstead made the criminal complaints and case dispositions available to Newsday.
The village board of trustees hired Stith and nine other new police officers on June 6. The hiring of police officers with arrest records is legal in New York and is “strictly a local decision,” according to the state Division of Criminal Justice Services.
Stith was elected to a seat on the Hempstead School Board on May 16. His term begins in July. With his hiring as a village police officer, Stith becomes the third school board member on the village payroll. Stith also is a lieutenant in the Hempstead Village volunteer fire department.
Maria Haberfeld, a professor at John Jay College of Criminal Justice in Manhattan, said Stith’s arrest shows a “disrespect toward the law.”
“This is very unusual,” she said about his being hired as a police officer.
Nassau County police and the Nassau County Civil Service Commission review officer candidates’ backgrounds. Karl Kampe, the commission’s executive director, said three civil service commissioners weigh the nature of a candidate’s offense, how long ago it occurred, if restitution was made and what the candidate has done since the incident, among other things.
A police department cannot hire a candidate unless he or she is approved by the commissioners, Kampe said.
Village board members, including the mayor, voted unanimously to hire the 10 officers, seven of whom are from the NYPD, to bring its total force to 126.
The department plans to hire several more officers after recent retirements, Assistant Police Chief Joseph Sortino said. He and Chief Michael McGowan declined to comment on Stith’s background.
Ryan defended Stith’s hiring, saying in a statement Stith passed his “standard pre-employment examination.” Ryan described Stith as his “godson” during his swearing-in ceremony at Village Hall, which was recorded in a video posted to Stith’s Facebook account.
“The Village is confident that he will prove to be a fine addition to the village police force,” Ryan said in the statement, without addressing Stith’s arrest.
Stith took his oath on June 8 and the others were sworn in the next day. Stith was sworn in a day earlier because he is the sole village resident among the 10 new officers and is given seniority based on his residency, Police Benevolent Association president Chris Giardino said. The board of trustees in January voted to waive residency requirements so the village could hire more officers who live outside Hempstead. Residents are given priority in hiring, McGowan said at the time, but the department has “exhausted” its list of people who live in Hempstead and have taken the civil service test.
The new officers started June 12 at annual salaries of $52,832, according to the board of trustees’ resolution. The former NYPD officers started with firearms and use of force training while the three others, including Stith, started at the police academy.