TIVERTON —A night shift police lieutenant stands accused of directly or impliedly ordering officers under his command that the hours between 3 a.m. and 6 a.m. were to be "quiet time," during which no law enforcement work was to be done.
That is one of the revelations in a seven-page Tiverton Police Department report, dated Sept. 23, and modified Sept 27, that was released last week under a public records request to the department.
Lt. Timothy Panell, 46, who allegedly gave the "quiet time" command, was ultimately charged on Sept. 8 with 58 misdemeanor offenses — 49 for being at home when he was supposed to be on duty at work (obtaining money from Tiverton under false pretenses), and 9 counts for filing false paperwork (fraud and false dealing) in order to get paid for it (with overtime he is the town’s second highest paid employee after the superintendent of schools). A pre-trial conference in Lt. Panell's criminal has been scheduled for Thursday, Nov. 3 in 2nd District Court, Courtroom #1, in Newport.
The charges followed a months long investigation that is detailed in the recently disclosed report, the “Reporting Officer" of which is identified as Tiverton Police Chief Thomas Blakey.
The report chronicles the investigation by Chief Blakey concerning the times that Tiverton police Lieutenant Timothy Panell was at his home at 50 Shannon Avenue in Tiverton when he was supposed to be on duty, and the context in which those actions took place.
Excerpts from that account appear below, in the order in which Chief Blakey reported them.
The chief’s report …
• "This investigation comes after a December 18, 2015 incident involving four (4) Tiverton police officers assigned to the midnight shift under the command of Lieutenant Panell who were suspended after being found sleeping in their patrol vehicles by Captain Patrick Jones in the back lot of the police department."
• "On or about December 23, 2015, I met with Lieutenant Panell in my office at police headquarters. The lieutenant felt that the discipline involving the officers was too harsh and asked that I reconsider the suspensions given to the respective officers. ... I informed the Lieutenant that all of the disciplinary action would stand and that sleeping on duty would not be tolerated in any form. I also told the Lieutenant that this was not an isolated incident of an officer falling asleep but a coordinated effort of the entire shift sleeping in the rear of the police department. I also reminded the Lieutenant that it would be embarrassing for the department and the potential for harsher discipline had a citizen or the media witnessed the officers sleeping in their cruisers. All of the officers involved were suspended and hourly radio checks of all on-duty officers between the hours of 0100 HRS and 0600 HRS implemented."
Phone call initiates probe
• "On Thursday, March 17, 2016, I received an anonymous telephone message on my office answering machine. The female caller identifies herself as a Tiverton resident and states, 'With only three officers on duty tonight how is it that one of them, Lt. Panell, who is on duty and his cruiser is outside of his home all night. How does he get away with this? He is supposed to be protecting our Town?' The caller completes the message requesting that this be investigated."
Surveillance of Panell home
• "On March 29, I consulted Chief Josue Canario of the Bristol RI Police Department .... Chief Canario agreed to any assistance necessary and we went to the Lieutenant's residence [at 50 Shannon Avenue, see photo below] in Tiverton and scouted the surrounding area to identify the best vantage from which to monitor the residence ..."
• "We determined the area would be difficult to conduct surveillance, particularly during the evening hours when traffic is very limited ..."
• "On March 30, 2016 at 02:58 HRS, using my personal, non-departmental vehicle, I checked the lieutenant's residence, knowing him to be on-duty. Upon checking the residence, I observed parked in the driveway at the address the black unmarked Dodge Charger Tiverton police cruiser assigned to the patrol Lieutenants and assigned to Lieutenant Panell that evening. The cruiser lights were off and the vehicle was not running. The residence was in darkness with the exception of light in one smaller window in the rear south east corner of the residence. After making my observations I parked nearby for approximately forty (40) minutes before leaving the area for the evening. The police cruiser remained parked in the driveway at that address unattended."
"Later that morning at 1000 HRS I telephoned Chief Canario and during our conversation he informed me that he also had checked Lieutenant Panell's residence at 0350 HRS. He confirmed the black Dodge charger ... was parked in the driveway and the residence was in darkness."
• "On March 31, 2016 HRS, I drove past the Lieutenant's residence and observed his vehicle in the driveway. ... Checking the police log I found Lt. Panell had requested the night off from his regular work schedule."
• On April 01, 2016 at 0330 HRS, I drove past ... I later learned he was off duty ..."
• On April 2, 2016 at 0320 HRS I drove past the Lt. Panell's residence, at which time I observed the black Dodge patrol vehicle with its lights off not running parked in the driveway. ... I remained in the area for approximately twenty (20) minutes before it began to rain."
"I returned to the Lieutenant's residence at 0530 HRS. The weather conditions were steady rain with wet roadways. I observed the black Dodge patrol vehicle still parked in the driveway. The cruiser was not running and the lights were off. The area of the driveway beneath the cruiser was dry. Given my location and vantage point, I felt I could remain undetected and continue to monitor the Lieutenant’s residence to see how long he would remain at home while on duty. I continued to monitor the Lieutenant's residence for two (2) hours and eleven (11) minutes, until 0741 HRS. At that time, I observed Lt. Panell emerge from the front door of his residence, enter the black patrol vehicle and travel to the town DPW garage where he fueled the vehicle and returned to police headquarters to end his shift at 0800 HRS."
"During the afternoon of April 02, 2016, I spoke with Chief Canario who told me he had also checked the Lieutenant's residence and had observed his personally owned vehicle parked in the driveway of his residence at 0400 HRS. ..."
"On April 05, 2016, at 0320 HRS, I again checked the Lieutenant's residence ... and learned that the Lieutenant had taken a compensatory day off." [Personal surveillance continued through April 11. In all, there were 11 surveillance occasions, on five of which the lieutenant was off duty.]
• "Based on my continued observations of the Lieutenant's residence, I decided that it would be best to deploy a GPS tracking device in the department owned police vehicle. This way it would verify the extent and length of time Lieutenant Panell was going home and avoid detection of myself or any other investigator." ...
• "On April 17, 2016 Detective Barboza installed a GPS monitoring device in the black Dodge patrol vehicle assigned to Lt. Panell. I monitored the GPS remotely ...".
• "In consulting with Detective Barboza, we determined the best way to confirm and document any possible activity of Lieutenant Panell being at home for extended periods of time would be to install a remote access and covert camera (pole camera) which would record video of when the Lieutenant would be at home while on duty and for what period of time."
• "On April 22, 2016, the camera system was installed which started recording on April 23 2016 and remained in place until the end of the first week of August 2016. During this time the following recordings and times when Car 48 [the vehicle assigned to Lt. Panell] and Lt . Panell was home on-duty during various shifts was documented [54 times, 10 of which were overtime]." ...
Internal action taken
• "On May 2, 2016, I along with Captain Patrick Jones met with Chief Canario at Bristol Police Headquarters. It was at this time that I advised Captain Jones of the investigation and surveillance to date."
• "During this investigation, I started to collect and hold all of Lt. Panell's requests for overtime as they related to the on-going video footage. I was also collecting slips submitted by Lt. Panell which he personally signed and submitted to me requesting overtime for hours worked." ...
• "On August 04, 2016, I issued a written order to Captain Jones to start an internal investigation of Lt. Panell's activities and any violations of criminal law an/or department policy." ...
• "On August 04, 2016, Captain Jones and I came into police headquarters and relieved Lt. Panell of duty and informed him in writing that he was under investigation per Rhode Island Law Enforcement Officer's Bill of Rights."
• "It was decided that interviews of Tiverton Police Officers who currently or who have previously served under Lt. Panell would be conducted for the specific purpose of determining their knowledge of the Lieutenant's activities during the shift."...
• "Of the eight (8) officers interviewed, six 6) admitted to having knowledge and/or receiving 'Orders' directly or implied by Lt. Panell that between the hours of 0300 HRS to 0600 HRS was identified as 'quiet time' and no enforcement activity or 'work' was to be conducted during that time frame by other officers assigned to the shift and under the command of Lt. Panell."
Town Solicitor Anthony DeSisto has said that Lt. Panell is currently suspended with pay, with disciplinary action, if any, pending the outcome of the criminal case.
Lt. Panell is "the second highest paid employee in town," after Superintendent of Schools William Rearick, reports a Tiverton Fact Check,a website edited by Justin Katz.
Lt. Panell earned a total (including overtime) of $116,627 in 2015, and a total of $119,072 in 2014, compared to the earnings of Superintendent of Schools, William Rearick, who earned (the website reports) $127,282 and $121,390 in 2015 and 2014 respectively.
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