Dover police chief Bernat cleared of misconduct in Webster matter

DOVER — Dover Police Chief Paul Bernat acted legally while handling a use-of-force report involving an officer’s assault case in 2013, officials determined earlier this month.

The Delaware Department of Justice investigated concerns raised in May by former Cpl. Thomas W. Webster IV’s attorney questioning two versions of a document that Chief Bernat signed, and concluded no criminal act had occurred.

Responding to attorney Jim Liguori on Aug. 3, Deputy Attorney General Dennis Kelleher said, “You alleged that Chief Bernat altered an internal Dover Police Department memorandum written in connection with the investigation.

“We have reviewed the allegations and Chief Bernat’s response through counsel and the applicable criminal statutes and have concluded that Chief Bernat’s actions in connection with this matter were not criminal. …”

Through his attorney, Glen Mandalas, Chief Bernat issued a comment on Aug. 4.

“The Dover Police Department is committed to professionalism at all ranks of service,” he said.

Chief Paul Bernat

Chief Paul Bernat

“We are pleased that today’s decision confirms this commitment, and we will continue to protect and serve the Dover community with a level of professionalism that has distinguished Dover’s police department as one of the top police departments in the entire country.”

Chief Bernat acknowledged to the Department of Justice’s Office of Civil Rights and Public Trust that two versions of the memorandum in question existed, and they were distributed to all parties involved during criminal and civil proceedings involving Cpl. Webster.

Last December, Cpl. Webster was found not guilty in Kent County Superior Court of assault while apprehending suspect Lateef Dickerson in August 2013; a kick to the jaw was captured on police dashcam video.

After the court case regarding the alleged assault was finalized, Mr. Webster reached a settlement with the city and left the Dover police force.

In a letter to Mr. Liguori, Deputy Attorney General Kelleher reported that several criminal statutes were considered during the investigation of the complaint, including first- and second-degree tampering with public records, and official misconduct.

“All of these offenses require the state prove the defendant acted without authorization or with the intent to defraud another or to obtain a personal benefit,” he wrote.

“Based on the available evidence (the civil rights office) has determined there is no evidence to support a finding that Chief Bernat’s acts constituted a crime.

“Thank you for contacting us and giving us the opportunity to review the matter.”

Mr. Mandalas and the civil rights office director Allison Reardon were included in the correspondence.

Reach staff writer Craig Anderson at canderson@newszap.com

You are encouraged to leave relevant comments but engaging in personal attacks, threats, online bullying or commercial spam will not be allowed. All comments should remain within the bounds of fair play and civility. (You can disagree with others courteously, without being disagreeable.) Feel free to express yourself but keep an open mind toward finding value in what others say. To report abuse or spam, click the X in the upper right corner of the comment box.