Cranston settles with wrongfully demoted police officer

By: Melissa Randall

mrandall@abc6.com

@MRandallABC6

Sgt. Matthew Josefson had his stripes reinstated Monday after reaching a settlement with the city of Cranston and its police department. The resolution comes nearly 3 years after he was wrongfully demoted from Sergeant to Patrolman over an offense that we never officially on the books.

Josefson was pressured into agreeing to the demotion after his superiors learned of secret audio recordings. His attorney, Joseph Penza Jr. says those tapes were made of conversations between his client and certain supervisors, who Josefson felt were targeting him during a time of turmoil within the department.

“He admitted to it, got demoted, signed a last chance agreement which put him on edge that if he did anything wrong in the next several years he could be fired,” said Penza.

Rhode Island State Police discovered that Josefson had been unfairly demoted while investigating the 2013 ticket blitz scandal. It turns out the rule against making such recordings was never officially published by then chief of police Col. Marco Palombo.

“It had been prepared, but Col. Palombo at the time said just leave it in the computer and that’s where it remained. And never the less the very person who said leave it in the computer is the one who charged him,” explained Penza.

Penza tells ABC 6 News that his client took the ordeal hard.

“It was very embarrassing to him. He had just been promoted several months earlier and now he had to go to his family and explain how he had been demoted,” he said.

According to Penza Troopers notified the Mayor Allan Fung’s office, but no action was taken, so a lawsuit was filed in U.S. District Court. The city and its police department agreeing Friday to a settlement in which they would reinstate Josefson’s stripes and pay him $215,000 in back wages, legal fees, and damages. The amount total about 25% of the original claim.

“This resolution will allow the city of Cranston and the Cranston Police Department to avoid a lengthy, disruptive, and very expensive legal battle, protects taxpayers, and will permit officer Josefson to continue serve the residents of the city. The men and women of the Cranston Police Department have moved the department forward and will continue to benefit from new leadership under Colonel Winquist and Mayor Fung," said Robert Coupe, Cranston’s Director of Administion.

Josefson is also ready to move forward, according to Penza.

“I think he’s going to do just fine and have a successful career as a police officer,” he said.

© WLNE-TV 2016