A county police sergeant was suspended yesterday for 15 days after he agreed to plead guilty to failing to supervise his squad during a wild chase last summer in which officers threw flares and fire extinguishers at a fleeing suspect's pickup truck, police sources said.
The agreement came at the start of what was to have been the third day of a departmental hearing for Sgt. William Darner, of the Northern District, who was charged with failing to supervise his squad and ordering them to omit information from their reports.
Police officials would not comment on the suspension, but Officer V. Richard Molloy, department spokesman, confirmed that Sergeant Darner pleaded guilty to the first charge and that the second charge was dropped.
Neither Sergeant Darner nor his lawyer, William Thompson, would comment on the agreement.
Sergeant Darner was the second supervisor to face departmental charges in the July 24, 1991, incident in which Edward Thomas Crenshaw, of the 400 block of Elwell Court, led police on a 120-mile chase through the county.
Capt. Richard Smith, who was the overnight commander during the incident, waived his right to a hearing and was fined $1,000 by Chief Robert Russell.
Crenshaw was sentenced in April to one year in prison after his conviction on assault and traffic charges.
During the 1 1/2 -hour chase, officers positioned on overpasses threw flares, fire extinguishers, first aid and tool kits at Crenshaw's truck.
Mr. Thompson argued during the hearing that Sergeant Darner was unfairly singled out and was not the only supervisor involved in the chase. Two lieutenants and Captain Smith, all of whom outranked Sergeant Darner, also were monitoring the incident, he said.
"What is the duty of the command staff?" Mr. Thompson said. "Captains and lieutenants are supposed to be monitoring the situation. If they heard that something was going on that was wrong, they should have intervened."
Apart from Captain Smith, no other command staff officers were charged.
Sgt. Chuck Mounts, a former internal affairs officer, testified during the hearing that Sergeant Darner told him last November that he never ordered his officers to omit references to the flares but only suggested that they do so to avoid negative publicity.
Sergeant Darner also said that other command staff officers knew about the objects that were tossed, arguing that he wasn't trying to cover it up, Sergeant Mounts added.
Officer James Haskell testified that he stood on the hood of his cruiser and threw a first aid kit at Crenshaw's truck as it passed the intersection of Route 648 and Ritchie Highway. Other officers threw flares and one threw a tool kit, he said.
"We had taken it that implied permission had been given from radio traffic that we heard," he said.
He testified that Sergeant Darner, who was his supervisor at the time, never told him to omit references to the flares in his report.