Report: Haverhill cop covered-up another ex-trooper’s crash

HAVERHILL – Charles Noyes isn’t the first retired state trooper involved in an automobile accident to get special consideration from Haverhill police.

One of the three Haverhill officers suspended without pay for his role in the Noyes case is facing another unpaid suspension and possible termination for failing to properly investigate a 2005 hit-and-run automobile accident involving another retired high-ranking state trooper.

A new police investigation has found that Sgt. Harry Miller conducted a suspect investigation and violated several department rules in his handling of a February 2005 accident in which an ex-trooper named Paul Regan crashed his white Mercury into another vehicle at the intersection of Route 110 and Forest Street and then fled the scene.

Regan, who lives in Rowley, retired in 2003 as a lieutenant colonel with a $110,472-a-year pension. He could not be reached for comment.

The new investigation by Haverhill Lieutenant Anthony Haugh found that Miller changed the nature of Regan’s 2005 accident on police paperwork from a hit-and-run to a “regular” motor vehicle accident. The report says Miller declined to charge Regan with a crime after meeting with an unidentified state trooper from the Newbury barracks less than one hour after the accident. The meeting took place in a Haverhill shopping mall, according to Haugh’s report.

Police said Miller told them he could not recall the name of the trooper who came to meet him and that he did not write it down anywhere or document the meeting in any way.

“Officer Harry Miller’s report gives absolutely no justification for the use of such discretion for not issuing Mr. Paul Regan a citation for leaving the scene of an accident because it was so poorly written,” the internal investigative report said. “Officer Miller’s scant report leaves more questions than answers, and contains little or no pertinent information with regards to operator’s statements or any information received from the sergeant of the state police with whom he met or even the sergeant’s name for that matter.”

David Procopio, a state police spokesman, said the agency is looking into the allegations in the Haverhill police report and declined further comment.

Miller, who was a patrolman in 2005, did not return a phone message left for him at the police station seeking comment for this story.

Haugh’s report said police were unable to determine whether Miller contacted Regan about the accident. In a formal interview with Haugh at the police station last month, Miller told investigators he could not recall ever meeting or even speaking to Regan about the accident, according to the report.

“While the officer cannot recall speaking to Mr. Regan, it is apparent that no follow-up was conducted by Officer Miller to confirm that Paul Regan was in fact the actual operator of the vehicle involved in the accident or why Mr. Regan contacted an agency he was no longer employed by, as Paul Regan retired from the Massachusetts State Police on 2003,” Haugh’s report said.

Haverhill police learned about the Regan accident and how it was handled by Miller during its investigation of how the department handled the Noyes case. Miller was the ranking Haverhill officer at the scene of the March 30 Noyes accident.

The Noyes investigation concluded that the former state police deputy superintendent was given special treatment by West Newbury and Haverhill police officers due to his previous position. The probe found that officers declined to arrest Noyes or charge him with drunk driving even though they had enough evidence and that reports by officers were so poorly written that prosecutors could not charge Noyes with drunk driving.

Investigators found that officers who were directly involved in the Noyes incident filed incomplete or inaccurate reports that, among other problems, failed to mention that all the officers on the scene and ambulance personnel believed Noyes was intoxicated. Noyes’ lawyer pointed to those reports in suggesting there was no evidence that his client had been drinking alcohol prior to crashing his Cadillac Escalade in West Newbury and then fleeing the scene, with his airbags deployed, until his mangled vehicle came to a stop in Haverhill. Noyes eventually was sentenced to six months of unsupervised probation after admitting there were sufficient facts to find him guilty of negligent driving and leaving the scene of an accident that caused property damage.

Noyes, who lives in Haverhill, retired in 2006 as deputy superintendent with a $116,659 pension. He is currently director of Public Safety at Wentworth Institute of Technology in Boston.

Miller, Lt. William Leeman and patrolman Christopher Pagliuca have been suspended for five days by Haverhill police Chief Alan DeNaro for their roles in the Noyes case. Miller and Leeman have appealed additional punishment recommended by DeNaro to Mayor James Fiorentini. A civil service hearing on the appeals is expected to be held this month. The maximum punishment the police chief can impose is a five-day suspension.

Haverhill’s investigation of the Regan case says Miller responded at 8:15 p.m. on Feb. 2, 2005, to a call for a hit-and-run accident with property damage at the intersection of River and Forest streets.

According to police reports, a witness followed Regan as he fled from the scene and eventually relayed his license plate number to police. Another witness told police he was “stunned” to see Regan’s vehicle drive away from the accident before police arrived. When they were contacted by Haugh for his new investigation, both those witnesses told Haugh that police never contacted them for follow-up interviews.

The driver of the other vehicle involved in the accident told Haugh that she was struck from behind by Regan’s vehicle and that Regan “took off” after hitting her, the report said.

The victim also told Haugh that she remembers being told by Regan’s insurance company that Regan told its claims agents that he was taking cough syrup at the time of the accident, according to Haugh’s report.

In a May 7 interview with police, Miller told investigators he was dispatched about an hour after the 2005 accident to meet a state trooper in the Westgate Plaza regarding the accident he was investigating.

“Sergeant Miller stated that he met with a sergeant from the state police barracks who wanted to relay that one of his troopers (Paul Regan) called the barracks to report that he was involved in an accident in Haverhill; and to call Haverhill (police) and let them know his information, and he did not stop because he was feeling ill,” Haugh’s report said. “According to Sergeant Miller, that is when he learned that Paul Regan was a state trooper.”

Miller told police he decided not charge Regan with leaving the scene of an accident after speaking with the state trooper.

According to Haugh’s report, Miller decided not to charge Regan, “because Mr. Regan contacted the state police barracks to, in turn contact the Haverhill Police Department on his behalf, and because a sergeant from the state police contacted him, making Paul Regan known to us, coupled with finding the troopers and the information to be credible at the time.

Miller told investigators, “I used my discretion not to charge Mr. Regan with leaving the scene. I thought it was a reasonable explanation.” Haugh’s report said.

Haugh’s report stresses that Regan was no longer a state trooper at the time of the accident. The report also says Miller decided on his own to switch the call from a hit-and-run to “a regular accident.”

“Because the sergeant came to me face to face and gave me an explanation, that’s why I did not charge Mr. Regan,” Miller told investigators.


Nursing Home Negligence

Falls in Nursing Homes

Litigators who work with cases involving long term care know how significant the issue of falls can be. Falls are the leading cause of injury and death by injury in adults over 65. Approximately half of the 1.6 million nursing home residents in the U.S. fall each year, and a report by the Office of the Inspector General found that about 10% of Medicare skilled nursing residents experience a fall resulting in significant injury; and, more than 1/3 of hospital falls result in injury. In the rehab setting, rates are often higher – for example, fall rates among stroke patients have been shown to be very high. Immobility and falls can lead to poor outcomes.

Fear of falling is defined as a geriatric syndrome. It not only occurs in older adults who have fallen, but in those with impaired mobility and is associated with decreased physical ability and depression. Care of older adults requires that clinicians be aware of the myriad of issues related to falls including knowledge of this syndrome, increased risk and interventions needed to prevent injury related to falls.

Just about every resident in a long term care setting, including assisted living and sub-acute rehab, is at risk for falling. Between medications, functional and medical issues and advancing age, older adults in most settings are prone to falling.

There are well established standards of care related to fall prevention; but, as I continue to review records related to issues like falls, I am amazed at how often these basic standards are not being practiced. The basics of a fall prevention program include assessment and ongoing reassessment of risk, ensuring a safe environment, medication review, providing therapy as needed, individualized interventions, and staff education.

Basic nursing practice includes assessment, planning (Care plan), putting interventions in place and then evaluating outcomes to determine if those interventions are appropriate and effective. Assessment includes completing fall risk assessments on admission and then as needed. Very often, the fall risk assessments completed by nurses in LTC are inaccurate. The tools utilized in long term care typically include these risk factors: history of falling, use of ambulatory aids, gait/balance issues, medications, secondary diagnoses (i.e. diabetes) and mental status. Care planning is the next step in nursing care - it is the standard of care that as the resident’s status changes, assessments and care plans must be updated, and often, are not. For example, with each fall, there should be updates, or if there is a new diagnosis, i.e. stroke, or worsening dementia, updated interventions should be put into place, with ongoing evaluation of effectiveness.

Care planning and interventions very often are generic and not individualized. For example, a toileting schedule that includes only after meals and before bedtime may not be appropriate. If a resident has issues with constipation or incontinence, this may lead to the need for more frequent toileting to prevent falls. The “make certain call bell is within reach” for residents with dementia is an example of a generic intervention. Older adults with dementia may not recognize a call bell or remember to use it. The debate about use of bed and chair alarms go on – they are a part of an individualized care plan, not a solution to preventing falls. Often, I see delays in putting interventions in place, i.e. with the resident who is incontinent NOT being put on a toileting plan immediately. The other common issue I see when reviewing records is the lack of updating care plans as the resident’s status changes – with every fall, with worsening dementia, physical decline, or new medical diagnosis (i.e. Parkinsonism).

Nurses reviewing records need to pay attention to the MDS, risk assessments, care plans and Interdisciplinary notes with attention to where the standard of care is not being met.
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Nursing Home Negligence
Dropped Patients

Each year, one in four people over 65 fall at least once, and many of these victims sustain serious injuries, like broken bones and head injuries. Certain physical issues, such as Vitamin D deficiency, limited vision, medication side-effects, and a hazardous walking surface, multiply the risks exponentially.

Nursing homes have a duty of care to prevent their patients from being injured, especially when it comes to everyday activities like moving from a bed to a wheelchair. So, many nursing homes follow legal protocols, such as this three-point plan from the National Institutes of Health, when performing such operations. A failure to follow established guidelines is clear evidence of fault in negligence cases.

Types of Transfers

Many residents are in long-term care facilities, at least in part, due to mobility impairment. Therefore, staff members must do whatever possible to prevent falls during procedures like:
•Bed to Wheelchair: Inspecting the surroundings, like the physical condition of the wheelchair and the rugs on the floor, is one of the most important, and most overlooked, steps in these transfers.
•Wheelchair to Bath: Many falls occur in bathrooms, so staff must be especially diligent during such transfers.
•Hoyer Lift Falls: To lessen the physical strain on staff and residents, many nursing homes use hydraulic lifts to move patients, at least in some situations. If they are not used properly or working properly, these devices can cause serious injury.
•Chair to Chair: Many residents break their hips when they stand because they use their legs for additional leverage, and many staff members are not as cognizant of this danger as they should be.

In many cases, normal medical protocol requires that two or more staff members assist a resident during these and other transfers.

Possible Injuries

Many nursing home fall victims are already in a somewhat frail physical condition before the incident. To make matters worse, they are often in elevated positions and sometimes unable to break their falls. This combination usually results in serious injuries like:

•Broken Bones: These wounds often require extensive and painful surgical correction and long-term physical therapy.
•Brain Injury: Often, the jostling alone (like a raw egg sloshing against an eggshell) is sufficient to cause permanent injury, including personality changes, loss of function, and even death.
•Internal Bleeding: Emergency responders are often preoccupied with outside trauma injuries to the point that they neglect internal injuries.

In addition to compensation for medical bills, victims and their families normally receive compensation for their pain and suffering.
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