State attorney general Letitia James’ Law Enforcement Misconduct Investigative Office (LEMIO) last week released a 14-page report on multiple complaints against Saugerties police officer Dion Johnson, including allegations of harassment and sexual assault.
The report, published July 7, said that the Saugerties police (SPD) referred the complaints to the Office of the Attorney General as required by law-enforcement agencies for any officer receiving at least five complaints in a two-year period. After an investigation, LEMIO concluded that Johnson was subject not only to complaints, but also to disciplinary action by the SPD.
Johnson’s prior history with the Albany Police Department, where he worked prior to coming to Saugerties, was also reviewed. The report found that the SPD was not made fully aware of allegations that Johnson made untruthful statements about overtime eligibility in Albany between January and February 2020.
According to the report, after allegations of harassment and sexual misconduct by an anonymous member of the public and two female SPD officers, the SPD suspended Johnson for ten days and placed him on probation for one year. LEMIO recommended that the SPD go much further, terminating Johnson’s employment and updating its own policies and practices regarding sexual misconduct and internal personnel investigations.
In August 2020, a civilian Saugerties resident filed a complaint that Johnson subjected her to repeated harassment, including sending inappropriate messages and pictures on social media. Johnson was also alleged to have sexually assaulted the woman in her home while on duty in late August 2020. The complainant provided the SPD and the OAG with images taken from a motion-triggered camera inside her kitchen following an August 31 voicemail left for SPD chief Joseph Sinagra alleging that Johnson was “in my apartment at two o’clock in the morning, when’s he’s supposed to be working, in uniform on my cameras …. I think it’s best if you spoke to him about harassing females in the community.”
According to the report, the complainant provided the SPD with a video recording of a conversation with Johnson on September 2, 2020 where she approached the officer, who was parked in his patrol car outside of her home in the early hours of the morning. The report claims Johnson said he was “doing a stakeout for across the street,” and that the woman said, “…Why am I so mad at you because you are fucking lying, bro. You know exactly what the fuck you did and you need to leave me the fuck alone, get off my fucking property and step on my property again and [the chief of police] is going to get a fucking phone call and stay the fuck away from me.”
“Officer Johnson’s conduct with respect to Complainant #1 is extremely troubling,” reads LEMIO’s report. “As an initial matter, we concur with the SPD’s determination that his admitted actions violated SPD policies on Unbecoming Conduct, Neglect of Duty, and Leaving Post.”
It continued. “We also conclude that it is more likely than not that Officer Johnson engaged in non-consensual physical contact with Complainant #1 and that he was not truthful during his sworn interview with the SPD investigator,” continues the LEMIO report. “While it is difficult to determine with certainty exactly what transpired between Officer Johnson and Complainant #1, particularly given her decision not to provide an in-person statement to either the SPD or the OAG, we found the telephonic and email statements that she made both to the OAG and SPD to be credible, consistent over time, and supported by the video and images that she provided.”
Female officers’ allegations
One of the two female officers alleged that Johnson had sent her a message on Snapchat in July 2020 suggesting that she “engage in a sexual act” with Johnson and another SPD officer. She further alleged that on September 24, 2020, Johnson walked inside the SPD squad room where the officer showed him her new ballistic vest. “According to Officer #1, Officer Johnson walked over, placed his hand on the area beneath her nametag, and said, ‘I touched your boob’ and ‘how did they feel?’ Officer #1 told him that she felt uncomfortable and pushed his hand away.”
The second female officer alleged that in the afternoon of October 18, 2021, she walked over to a candy box to take a piece of candy, and when she turned back around, Johnson was standing “extremely close” to her, “probably like within an inch and a half,” and that Johnson made her extremely uncomfortable by placing his right hand on her lower waist and moving it inside her belt between her taser and baton, placing his other hand on her shoulder for around 30-40 seconds. Later, the officer alleged that Johnson jokingly told another officer that she was “hitting on him” and “trying to be his work wife.”
Johnson’s accounts of the allegations by the civilian and two female officers differed greatly.
The LEMIO report was unconvinced by his account. “Based on these acts, we conclude that Officer Johnson engaged in a pattern of misconduct with respect to Complainant #1, Officer #1, and Officer #2 in violation of SPD policies prohibiting sexual harassment, unbecoming conduct, neglect of duty, and leaving post,” reads the report. “Given the pattern of misconduct regarding Complainant #1 and Officers #1 and #2, we recommend that Officer Johnson be subject to termination, which would be consistent with recommended sanctions at other agencies.”
According to an SPD source, Johnson isn’t currently being paid by the department and is serving with the U.S. Army Reserve.