Two off-duty Blasdell police officers who are accused by four youths of terrorizing them over the weekend are among the best officers on the part-time force, their boss said Wednesday night.
Town of Hamburg Police Capt. Thomas Best, who oversees Blasdell's 15 part-time police officers, praised the work of Officers Joseph A. LaRosa, 24, and David J. Czerwiec, 32.
"They were two of my better officers, to tell you the truth," Best said, following a routine Blasdell Village Board meeting.
The board unanimously voted to suspend the officers without pay and trustees refused to comment on the matter. The board's action made the men's suspensions official. In addition, LaRosa, who also worked part-time for the Village of Hamburg Police Department, will not work for that department either until the matter is resolved.
In response to a question from resident Tom Cole, Mayor Ernest J. Jewett said that neither officer was terminated but would be suspended until the investigation into the alleged incident is completed. He would not comment any further.
Since LaRosa and Czerwiec were hired in May 1996, the department had not received any complaints about either of them, Best said.
"They were never discourteous to any citizens," he said. "We were just getting a good reputation, and now this is a black eye. But, we'll recover. We've got a lot of good officers."
Best would not discuss any details of the case. But, he said, "If these allegations are true, it's a shame."
Four youths have told police that they had driven into the parking lot of a bar along the 4000 block of Lake Shore Road in Hamburg early Sunday morning, so that one of the girls in the car could use a restroom. The youths were looking for a party after a homecoming dance at West Seneca West Senior High School.
As the three companions waited inside the car, they said they saw two men in the lot staring at them. The youths allege that one of the men pulled out a black handgun and waved it at them, and told them to get out of the car. Two of the youths said the armed man stumbled and slurred his words as he and his companion identified themselves as off-duty police officers.
In an interview with The News on Tuesday, Best declined to say which of the two officers drew the gun. The two officers dispute the youths' account, Best has said, and have retained an attorney.
The officers have been cooperating 100 percent, said Best, who also is the chief of detectives for the Town of Hamburg police.
Both officers joined the Blasdell force at the same time.
The suspensions are indefinite pending the outcome of the investigation by the Village of Blasdell, the Town of Hamburg and the Erie County district attorney's office.
Best said the officers are entitled to carry weapons since they are certified by the state as officers. The gun in the alleged incident case was a personal weapon bought after the officer was hired by Blasdell, he said.
"It's a serious allegation, but at this point, it's just allegations," Best said.
Both officers graduated last February from the Rural Police Training Institute at Genesee Community College in Batavia. They were hired in 1996 and then sent for eight months of training.
LaRosa is the son of Joseph LaRosa, a well-respected Town of Hamburg police detective who died in 1993. Czerwiec is the son of Hamburg Town Police Chief Mathew Czerwiec.