Firings and Suspensions of Bristol Twp Police Officers Upheld by Arbitrator
Bristol Township officials announced the firing of two officers and suspensions of four others were upheld in arbitration hearings, on Thursday.
The township fired officers Shawn Lyons and Charles Pritchett, and suspended officers Kevin Jackson, John Lancieri, John Yeiter, and Joshua Bausch, according to arbitration documents, in 2020.
Two officers Yeiter and Bausch, who received a 10-day and 5-day suspension, respectively, did not grieve their suspensions.
Jackson (15 -day suspension) and Lanceri (Originally 20-days, now -10) along with Lyons and Pritchett contested the original decisions by township officials about the incident that occurred at a Fraternal Order of Police Lodge in February of 2020 when the six ran into an drunken Philadelphia Parking Enforcement officer, according to the 22 page release.
The document outlines five arbiter hearings beginning in January of this year, including statements and testimony from the officers and Chief of Police Coulton.
The inciting incident occurred in February of 2020 when a Bristol Township Police officer received a “number of harassing and threatening cell phone calls and texts” from an unknown caller, township documents reveal.
This unfortunate incident was set in motion when a Bristol Township Police Officer received a series of harassing and threatening cell phone calls and text messages from an unknown male caller while he was sleeping with his family in the early morning hours of February 20, 2020. Somehow the caller had the Officer’s personal cell phone number and his address. The Officer had his life threatened in one of the calls, said Bristol Twp officials.
He reported the harassment and threat to his supervisor. Chief of Police Robert Coulton ordered an immediate investigation. A short time later Detectives learned that six (6) Bristol Township Police Officers were involved and incredibly actually instigated it as some sort of twisted prank. Only they never advised the Officer it was a “prank” and they hid their involvement until discovered a week later, according to the release.
After the internal investigation Coulton recommended Lyons be fired because he was “the ringleader” of the “twisted prank,” and Pritchett because he provided the officers phone number to the parking enforcement officer.
The officers contested the penalties saying a full and fair investigation was not conducted and thought the original disciplinary action was excessive.
Arbitrator Walt De Treux said in his decision that the offices did not provide a plausible reason why the officer would lie about the calls and threatening texts, which was alleged .
(The officer) had no conceivable reason to unnecessarily introduce such turmoil into his personal life,” he wrote.
The township was directed to pay Lancieri for 10 days of pay he lost because of the suspension and that he did not lie, when interviewed.
Bucks County District Attorney Matthew Weintraub declined to bring criminal charges against the officers last year saying there was no criminal intent involved on the part of the officers involved.
“Individuals who subject co-workers to ridicule and harassment, giving out the private cell phone number and home address of a fellow officer to an angry, drunken stranger have no place in our Police Department. These actions run contrary to our law enforcement mission and negatively impact the entire Police Department,” Coulton said.
Bristol Township Council President, Craig Bowen, said, “We are pleased that the Arbitrator saw how egregious the Officers’ behavior was both that evening and during the investigations. We cannot tolerate Officers who show a complete disregard for the rights of others including another Officer.”
The Bristol Township Council would like to thank Chief Coulton, his Command Staff, as well as Neil A. Morris and Gabriel V. Celli, with Offit Kurman, the Township Labor Attorneys, who meticulosity represented the Township in achieving this favorable decision, officials said.
To read the full press release and arbiter’s decision click here