Friday, June 24, 2011

Will the Punishment Fit the Crime? 2 Officers Cited for Public Drunkenness Off-Duty and Threatened with Possible Discharge While City Councilman Jeff Warren Still Heads Public Safety after Two DUIs

Community Police Officer Russ Demko is one of the Easton policemen cited for being fightin' drunk in public while off-duty

Posted by: Noël Jones

According to Ed Sieger in his Express-Times article, Russ Demko and Thomas Beiser were cited last week in Carbon County for public drunkenness outside a hotel after a wine festival. An investigation is underway, and possible punishments mentioned in the article include reprimand, suspension and/or discharge from the force. For getting drunk. On foot. While not working. Granted, it was not too bright to get in a fist-fight with each other (over what? Enquiring minds wanna know...could be juicy...) but in the end these guys were only a danger to themselves and each other, not the public.

By comparison, City Councilman Jeff Warren, Head of Public Safety, was cited earlier this year for his second DUI, and was somehow mysteriously accepted into the first-time offenders program and not
forced to leave council, nor was he even relieved of his title of Head of Public Safety. For getting drunk. Twice the legal limit. And driving. And speeding.

Some of the criticism levied at Warren was amplified due to his public statement previous to his second DUI offense, with regard to a police officer's DUI, in which he said that "public officials should be held to a higher standard." I'd like to say that that came back to bite him in the ass, but unfortunately, it didn't. He got away with it. He ran unopposed in the primary, and Mayor Panto says he can't do anything about it at all. Let me also not forget to add that Jeff Warren is an aide to Sen. Lisa Boscola, who also did nothing about it.

In addition to Warren, according to Sara Satullo's article for the Express-Times, another public official, State Rep. Joe Brennan, was arrested for DUI as well this week. He was so drunk that he fell in a WaWa parking lot, hit his head and had to be helped up by witnesses, after which, he decided to go ahead and drive to the office. He was turned in by a concerned citizen who called 911 and followed him, and he was taken to the hospital to have his head examined.

Now, granted, it's dumb and irresponsible for police officers to get super drunk and behave so obnoxiously as to draw public attention to one's off-duty antics--and I don't think these officers would disagree with that assessment themselves--but if they were not driving and a danger to the public like Warren and Brennanthen why are we even considering holding them to a higher standard than regular citizens who get a little too drunk and do dumb things after work now and then?

Is anyone else bothered by this?


Buckaroo said...

There's no doubt that "who you know" plays heavily into this. There is also an obvious double standard. In both cases, these men are expected to set an example with their actions, which they plainly did not.

In the case of Mr. Warren we can choose to not re-elect him, which is probably doubtful. With the Policemen, we most likely have to wait for the charges to play out, and then hope that Police Management, or City Administration deals with the matter.

Either way, it's up to us to not forget these issues.

noel jones said...

I agree, Buckaroo. I am not a party politics person, but it drives me nuts that the Republicans couldn't come up with a single person to challenge a city councilman with 2 DUIs. Many Democrats I know were disappointed with Warren and disappointed in the city and Lisa Boscola's office for not taking stronger action, so I doubt they would have fought to hard to win that one.

It's still wide open for an Independent challenge (or a write-in challenge from another Democrat) in my opinion.

At the very least, Warren should no longer have the title of Head of Public Safety. And if nothing is going to happen to him at all, then they should let these officers off with the citation alone. I'm sure they've learned their lesson after all this negative attention and might think twice before getting drunk and fighting each other in public...

It's embarrassing behavior (for us and them), but they were only dangerous to themselves. They were not driving. There's a big difference. Warren has gotten away with behavior that could very easily have killed someone. Twice. And the state rep is clearly a danger to himself and others as well.

noel jones said...

Check out this ET article on state rep Joe Brennan from November 2010--this guy is habitual!

noel jones said...

sorry, here's the link:

Julie Zando-Dennis said...

I agree Noel. When I first heard about the incident in Carbon county, I thought we shouldn't make such a big deal out of it. The officers were off-duty, on foot, and at a wine festival for goodness sakes. Yeah, they should be reprimanded for behaving in an undignified manner, but certainly not fired, and no media feeding frenzy should result from this.
And the double standard with respect to Councilman Warren is glaring.

Anonymous said...

Council member Warren is not the head of Public Safety - he is simply the Chairperson pf the Public Safety Committee of city council. He has no administrative responsibilities. He intriduces ordinances that the administration proposes after reviewing the legislation in his committee.

While I agree that it appears to be a double standard the fact is that no one ran against him and he was re-elected (to this point in time).

As far as Republican candidates, I know of at l republican potential who said that he no longer considered it once a R ran for mayor and ios challenging Panto. He said that Panto will be bringing out a huge vote and would carry the council members with him. Had there not been an opponent for the mayor he was entering the race. He sees Panto winning by a large margin and very little opportunity for any non-incumbent. Has Panto not had an opponent he felt at least two R's would have run in the council race.

Anonymous said...

c'mon let's be real.

First, how many democrats challenged the incumbents?


What was the turn out?

Hardly anyone.

Republicans could not find anyone to run for office. You need a solid candidate at the top of the ticket to attract candidates for council and controller. Plus you need a party organization and chairman to attract candidates. The organized party is dead. Maybe it makes a comeback; maybe it does not. It just did not happen this time around.

It is more troubling that there were not more democratic primary candidates and that the turnout was lousy. As far as Warren is concerned, unless there is a challenge; we have to assume that the electorate is satisfied with his performance including drinking and driving. We had our chance, and we chose the status quo.

We should stop discussing him. With no candidates for office except for mayor, turnout will be light. Could be a tight race which really does not reflect where the city is.

Anonymous said...

I checked the election results for 2007 and Panto received more votes than any other candidate - even the council members where you have an opportunity to vote for three people. I disagree that the voter turnout is light because Panto isn't resting on his laurels. I saw him knocking on doors during the primary and I wouldn't doubt that he does alot more walking this fall - plus of course the fact that he is the most visible mayor in recent history.

We need to look for and develop candidates. You can't run for an election if you haven't been involved in organizations and built up name recognition. Now is the time to look for individuals who have some name recognition and who are involved in the community. Panto was involved in hundreds of community events before he ran for mayor the first time, he and his dad had a well-known business on College Hill and he was a teacher for 10 or so years. Goldsmith was on council for 20 years.

You can't expect the voters to vote for someone they never have heard of. Start looking, the next council election is around the corner.

Anonymous said...

I agree with Julie. I remember an off duty incident invovleing several police opffiers from Easton and the Administration was proposing some harsh penalties but city council went ahead and fired two of the officers. They both got their jobs back 18 months or so later with back pay. Easton cannot afford this. Harsh reprimand is warranted but not to the level of termination unless there is a record of discipline in their past.

noel jones said...

Anons--thanks for posting--good points made, but please oh please take monikers if you want to remain anonymous, so that it's easier for readers to know how many voices are in the conversation and follow the threads more easily!

Alan Raisman said...

I agree with Anon 6/25 3:37 PM. Easton has a Main Street Initiative (Downtown), College Hill Neighborhood Association (College Hill), West Ward Neighborhood Association (West Ward) and South Side Civic Association. I served on the Board of the College Hill Neighborhood Association for two years while a student at Lafayette College and saw the turnout for our meetings. We need more people to get involved.

As far as candidates, the League of Women Voters runs a Running for Local Office workshop. If you are interested in running for local office, get involved with their organization and learn about their events. Their website is

Easton Main Street Initiative:

College Hill Neighborhood Association:

West Ward Neighborhood Partnership:

I could not find a website for the South Side Civic Association. As far as everything Easton, a great website is Easton's Patch website:

People often do not think about running for elected office. If you want someone to run for office, suggest it to it him or her. They may take you up on the offer. City Council is considered a part-time position while the position of Mayor is considered a full-time position.

noel jones said...

Thanks for all the links, Alan!

Anonymous said...

Many off-duty officers carry their weapons with them. Perhaps that is a particular reason for concern when they are publically intoxicated. Just a thought.

noel jones said...

Anon 11:12, good point. I have heard about officers getting in trouble before for losing their weapons while off-duty at parties, etc...on the other hand, if the law is that any American has the right to carry a licensed handgun and can do so whether intoxicated or not, then we have to ask ourselves whether or not we should treat off-duty officers differently than the average citizens.

Julie Zando-Dennis said...

Hmmm. Hadn't thought of the weapons. Thanks Anon 11:12. Yeah, if the officers were carrying weapons, best not to be drunk on the street and getting into fist fights. Anyone know if they had weapons?

Julie Zando-Dennis said...

Yikes. The news report in the July 1st Express Times provides details that show the incident was more than a tipsy police officer letting off steam. Sounds like Demko has a problem.

noel jones said...

Whoa. Thanks for the heads up Julie--that's an understatement! here's the link:

it's really too bad--Demko is one of our community police officers and good with the neighbors. the addition of Demko and Matt Rush to the force was a welcome one, after residents had had strained relations with the police for years. considering Beiser was awarded Officer of the Year, the story makes a little more sense now.

i still say that if Demko is going to be disciplined then City Councilman Jeff Warren and State Rep. Joe Brennan should also, because DUIs are even more dangerous than the embarrassing antics in this report.