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Closer Scrutiny Of Officer

Didn't Stop Citizen Complaints
Published: 3:18 PM EDT, August 8, 2014

Enfield police officials were so concerned about the number of citizen complaints against officer Matthew Worden early last year that they ordered shift commanders to keep close tabs on the K-9 officer, department records show.

The extra attention did not stem the tide.

Four more complaints were subsequently filed against Worden, including a brutality charge that resulted in the officer being placed on administrative leave.

The decision to pay close attention to Worden came after Chief Carl Sferrazza ordered Deputy Chief Gary Collins to examine 13 citizen complaints, and the resulting internal affairs investigations, made against Worden between 2007 and January 2013.

In a memo to Sferrazza, dated Jan. 8, 2013, Collins concluded "while most of the complaints were unfounded "extra supervision on his (Worden's) calls may help to stem some of these complaints." Collins recommended at the end of the 4-page memo that shift commanders and field sergeants get more involved with Worden.

Since that memo was written, Worden has been the subject of four complaints, including two this year in which he has been accused of using unnecessary force. Worden is currently on paid administrative leave while an internal affairs investigation into one of those 2014 complaints, filed by Mark Maher of Vernon, is investigated.

Maher and another man Eric AvaIos, who was shot by a stun gun twice by Worden in February, have both filed notice of intent to sue notices with the town.

Their attorney, A. Paul Spinella of Hartford, said Friday the report by the deputy chief should have signaled to police officials that they had a problem.

"Almost every single report indicates that he was rude or discourteous and that should have been clear red flag to the administration," Spinella said. "It certainly raises the question about whether the department knew they had a bad apple and turned the other cheek."

But Sferrazza said the memo shows that the department was being proactive.

"The department wasn't asleep at the switch here. It wasn't lost on us the high number of complaints against (Worden)," Sferrazza said. "We wanted to be proactive and make sure that we did everything correctly in investigating these complaints and that there were no patterns."

The chief said that the department did follow up on the deputy chief's recommendations. All supervisors were made aware of the issue and one captain has even gone out on some of Worden's calls to monitor the officer.

In addition Worden was sent to a one-day training class last March at the Hartford Police Department that the brochure describes as a "classroom based combat-confrontation avoidance class."

Besides the four citizen's complaints, Worden has filed 11 use of force reports since January 2013, far more than any of the other 99 officers in the department, police records show.

Because Enfield is a federally accredited police department, officers must fill out a use of force form every time an incident warrants it. The reports can be for anything from drawing a weapon on a suspect to take-downs during arrests to using a Taser.

Since 2012 Worden has filed 17 use of force reports, six more than anyone else in the department, records show. There have been 14 internal affairs investigations of Worden since 2007, but Sferrazza said many of them were for being rude or discourteous and not for allegations of police brutality.

Sferrazza said some of the use of force incidents include incidents when Worden's dog, Falco, bit a suspect. Records show the departments other full-time K-9 officer Chris Dufresne has filed two use of force reports in the same time frame.

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