Saturday, September 24, 2011

Surprise police officer demoted after harassment inquiries

Surprise police officials have demoted a high-ranking officer to patrol after two investigations into harassment accusations.

Officials said Lt. Craig Scartozzi, who has served as the department's spokesman and one of its youth outreach volunteers, "engaged in conduct that was pervasive and unwelcome" against a subordinate police officer, according to documents The Republic obtained under Arizona's public-records law. The specific incidents leading to the investigation were not provided.

The initial investigation focused on conduct by Scartozzi between August and October last year and led to a second investigation into other allegations of harassment.

A departmental disciplinary notice said between February and June of 2010, Scartozzi "used sexually based humor" and simulated sex acts, including "with a female officer of lower rank, in front of subordinate officers." The report did not make it clear if the woman was in the room at the time of the conduct.
The demotion, which included a substantial pay cut, took effect Aug. 29.

Scartozzi was promoted to lieutenant in 2006. He served as a sergeant in both the patrol and investigations divisions, was on the department's tactical team and the state gang task force known as GIITEM, for Gang and Immigration Intelligence Team Enforcement Mission.

Scartozzi, a former Marine who's been with the department since 1997, has a long history of volunteerism and is known for his role in the agency's youth outreach efforts. He was one of a handful of city volunteers in 2010 who started organizing events for teens, including a back-to-school mixer, chaperoned parties and a baseball clinic.

He has also volunteered on the department's honor guard, which serves at officer funerals and special events such as parades and visits from government dignitaries.

In 1998, he received a medal of merit from the Surprise Fire Department for his efforts to save an infant who was accidentally smothered in bed. The baby died later at a hospital.

Department spokesman, Sgt. Mark Ortega, said Scartozzi is known for performing exceptionally as an officer and exceeding the expectations of his superiors.

Scartozzi declined to comment on the investigation when contacted by The Republic on Friday but was optimistic about the future.

He expressed pride in his accomplishments as an officer and said he planned to put the past behind him and carry on in Surprise.

"I took an oath to protect those citizens that I serve and I'll continue to do that," he said.

Ortega said the department recently completed training officers on its harassment policy, but the training was not in response to the investigations.

Scartozzi was also handed a one-day suspension and letter of reprimand in 1998 after officials said he falsified another officer's report by entering a vulgar expression. The investigation determined that Scartozzi, who was a police officer then, violated standards of conduct and the department's policy on falsifying reports, documents say. Scartozzi entered the remark after the report's author left his desk to respond to an emergency, documents say.

He told investigators he meant the act as a joke and felt badly about the incident. Another officer was also investigated for allegations he participated by adding his own inappropriate statements.

The author of the report noticed the additions and deleted most of them but missed Scartozzi's comment, the investigation showed. The report was forwarded to the City Attorney's Office where the addition was discovered.

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