In August, a female police officer with the tiny Muttontown, New York police department sued the village and its police chief because she said she'd faced gender discrimination on the job. Jennifer Lavin's suit alleged that after she was injured while handcuffing an emotionally disturbed person, Chief Phil Pulaski refused to grant her line-of-duty benefits or light duty and blamed her pregnancy for her pain.
The lawsuit is still pending, but now Pulaski is on his way to becoming the Miami Beach Police Department's captain of detectives. That's despite a department policy that says job applicants who are the subject of any legal action "will not be processed until such action is concluded."
Former city commissioner Michael Grieco (who himself resigned his seat and gave up his reelection bid after pleading no contest to a misdemeanor charge related to a campaign finance scandal) shared the news on Twitter along with a link to a story about the Muttontown lawsuit. "Smh," he wrote.
Grieco declined to comment on the record about Pulaski's hiring.
In an email to New Times, Miami Beach Police spokesperson Ernie Rodriguez confirmed Chief Daniel Oates has given Pulaski a verbal, conditional offer of employment.
"He is currently undergoing the background screening process, if all goes well a January hire date is anticipated," Rodriguez wrote. He added that information about Pulaski's salary will be available after he officially becomes an employee.
Rodriguez said the chief has the authority to waive hiring restrictions. Bobby Jenkins, president of the Miami Beach Fraternal Order of Police, said in a statement that the union would prefer hiring be done within the department's ranks but noted that "it is within the Chief’s discretion to appoint members of his command staff." He added, "It is our hope that the same rigorous hiring process be used for this candidate as for any other officer who seeks to be hired by the department.”
The Muttontown lawsuit was not the first time Pulaski faced criticism from employees. Before becoming chief of the 12-officer village police department, he spent 33 years at the New York Police Department, where Oates also worked from 1980 to 2001.
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Shortly after becoming head of detectives for that agency, Pulaski was blasted for requiring them to account for every move in highly detailed reports. He initiated the crackdown after discovering some detectives were slacking off, the New York Post reported in 2010.
Pulaski, a former civil engineer who earned a degree in law before becoming a cop, left NYPD in 2014. About a year later, Muttontown Mayor Julianne Wesley Beckerman announced his hiring, writing in a letter to residents that his resumé, "although impressive, is outshined by the man himself."
After Lavin filed a notice of intent to sue, the mayor defended the police department, telling the New York Post in November 2016 that the claims "are disputed by the village and are the subject of an ongoing litigation."
But four months later, Beckerman announced Pulaski had left the department, writing in a letter to residents: "We thank Chief Pulaski for the time that he served the Village and wish him well in his future endeavors."