Shelton chief: Police officer fired for allegedly staging photos, then lying about it

Photo of Brian Gioiele
Shelton Police Department's Chief Shawn Sequeira.

Shelton Police Department's Chief Shawn Sequeira.

Christian Abraham / Hearst Connecticut Media

SHELTON — Police officer Caroline Moretti was fired Wednesday, the Shelton police chief said, for allegedly lying and for conduct unbecoming a police officer in connection with photos posted on the police union’s Facebook page, which appeared to show officers changing their clothes outside.

Chief Shawn Sequeira said an internal affairs investigation led to the firing of Moretti, who handed in her weapon and whose locker was cleared out Wednesday.

“If she was willing to lie (about me), what would make me think you could not do it to anyone?” Sequeira said to Hearst Connecticut Media. “She proved herself untrustworthy and was terminated.”

Police union attorney Barbara Resnick, speaking on behalf of Moretti, said there is “no truth to the chief’s bald allegations of false statements and misconduct.”

“This will continue to be laid bare in court, as has occurred so many times before with this chief,” Resnick added.

Moretti’s termination comes weeks after the firing of Lt. Dave Moore and officers John Napoleone and Michael McClain for dereliction of duty in an unrelated case.

Sequeira said Moretti lied more than 20 times during various internal affairs investigations into the parking lot scandal.

Video evidence and audio-taped testimony was used in determining her discipline, according to Sequeira, and more officers are expected to be disciplined, some possibly fired in connection with the investigation into the parking lot photos.

Resnick called this a “sad day for the citizens of Shelton who have just lost another great officer who served them with the utmost dedication.”

Police union representative Mike Lewis said Moretti will grieve the firing, claiming she “was not afforded her due process” during the pre-disciplinary hearing.

Moretti, who was hired by Sequeira, was on the force for three years. Recently she was lauded by the Shelton fire department for helping to pull a 91-year-old man out of a burning High Street home June 24.

Sequeira told Hearst Connecticut Media she had not had any earlier disciplinary issues during her tenure.

Sequeira said his office followed the proper protocol in the disciplinary process, and Moretti was afforded every opportunity to examine the allegations and offer her response before the final decision was made on termination.

The police chief said in early June his department was investigating images of men and women with their faces blocked posted on the the Support the Shelton Police Union Inc. Facebook page, which the union described as town officers changing clothes in the department’s parking lot. The pictures appear to show male officers changing their pants and female officers in bras as they change their shirts.

In the termination letter, Sequeira said Moretti staged the photo of herself undressing in the headquarters parking lot. The letter states Moretti gave her phone to a co-worker to take the picture, then lied during the investigation by claiming the first time she saw the phone was when someone sent her a screenshot of it.

Investigators obtained video evidence which proved that she voluntarily took part the clothes-changing “scheme,” Sequeira said in the letter.

Sequeira said Moretti’s actions were “disturbing,” and she purposely staged a photo “to be displayed in a demeaning and degrading manner that would impair the reputation of the department,” then lied on numerous occasions during the investigation about the level of her involvement.

“Your injudicious decision to be involved in this type of conduct will not be tolerated,” Sequeira wrote.

In May, the police union filed a grievance alleging three female patrol officers were denied use of their headquarters restrooms while the 49 men had access. The police chief then limited use of headquarters locker rooms and bathrooms for both men and women and set up portable toilets for patrol officers in the parking lot.

Police officers had access to restrooms in City Hall and the farmers market building during that time, and, according to the chief, could go home, if approved by a supervisor, to use a bathroom and change.

Sequeira said Moretti said “yes” during the investigation when asked if she knew she had other options for bathroom use and changing. He said in the letter that her parking lot changing was “done intentionally to discredit the image of the police department.”

The letter says while the administration respects an officer’s “right to express concern over workplace conditions, you do not have the right to lie, including covering up your participation in a voyeuristic scheme regarding them.”

“By you not telling the truth, it shows me that you don’t have the moral and ethical characteristics to be a police officer,” Sequeira states in the termination letter.