Wilton cop was fired for lying about underage drinking party

WILTON — Police Officer Steven Zawacki, who was with the Wilton Police Department since 2015, was fired for lying about circumstances involving an underage drinking party, as an investigation later found.

Following an internal affairs investigation and a recommendation by Police Chief John Lynch, the Wilton Police Commission voted to terminate Zawacki’s employment at a special meeting on Wednesday, Oct. 16.

The Wilton Bulletin obtained information about Zawacki’s termination through a Freedom of Information request to Chief Lynch, who initially denied the request, he said, based on legal counsel’s recommendation. Lynch later released a redacted copy of the internal affairs investigation, following a complaint by The Bulletin to the state Freedom of Information Commission.

The report of the investigation claims Zawacki violated a number of the police department’s standard operating procedures, in particular, the standard for dishonesty or untruthfulness.

The investigation centered around an incident that happened in August 2019 where Zawacki, as the primary officer, and a backup officer responded to a Wilton home late at night based on a noise complaint.

According to the investigation, when officers arrived at the address it was apparent that a large party of 100 minors was taking place, hosted by an 18-year old minor resident, with no parents present. When police arrived, youths were seen running from the home and there was a beer can and other alcohol containers in the yard, indicating there was alcohol consumption by minors on the premises, the investigation said.

After speaking with the minor resident who admitted there was alcohol at the party, Zawacki abruptly shut off his body camera before the police visit had ended. Zawacki never entered the residence, took no action, and no arrests or citations were issued, according to the investigation.

The report said Zawacki did not perform any substantive investigation at the residence, did not notify a supervisor about what was going on there, did not take any enforcement action, and did not take any steps to ensure the safety of minors who remained at the home.

The investigation further found that when Zawacki was later questioned by two shift supervisors about what occurred at the residence, he gave misleading information and half-truths, saying he took no action on the call because there was no alcohol present.

Zawacki’s statement was disproved by witness testimony and information seen on video footage from Zawacki’s body camera, where the minor resident acknowledges having a party where alcohol was involved.

The investigation concludes Zawacki violated four standard operating procedures: dishonesty or untruthfulness, competent performance, insubordination, and deactivating a body camera prior to the conclusion of an incident.

The investigation notes that in 2018 the commission previously issued Zawacki a 90-day suspension without pay for having an inappropriate relationship and harassment in the workplace.