If you're a cop, I suppose no job is really safe. But being a DARE officer has to be one of the better gigs. You work steady hours. You're home at night. You're off the streets. Derron Henning was lucky to have that job for fourteen years, the last ten of which he spent at Liberty High School. It must have been very convenient for him, too, because he was an assistant wrestling coach being paid around $4543 per year.
Then Commissioner Randy Miller decided to move Henning out of Liberty High School and onto the streets. Perhaps Miller thought he should give someone else a chance, or maybe he felt an experienced officer like Henning would be more valuable on patrol. Whatever Miller may have thought, he was soon overruled by Derron's friend, another ex-wrestler who graduated from Liberty.
Bethlehem Mayor John Callahan.
Callahan personally intervened on behalf of Derron, who was able to stay at Liberty High School, working regular hours, until he decided he'd rather be a sergeant.
On February 4, 2007, when Officer Kennedy was struck by Callahan brother-in-law Cantelmi, there was actually another officer, in another cruiser, behind Kennedy. This officer actually witnessed the collision, and is the person who pulled Dino Cantelmi and his female companion from their Volvo, where they were hanging upside down.
"I asked if they were insured and both stated, 'No.' "
Fortunately, they did have insurance. But neither had any idea that they had just run into a police cruiser. Neither knew where the damaged police cruiser was, even though it was just a few feet away. This could be either the result of alcohol or the shock of the accident.
This officer was asking questions that must have made him suspicious. But while he remained "on scene to assist with the accident investigation," Acting Sergeant Derron Henning arrived and took over with Cantelmi.
Now according to the whistle-blowing officer I spoke with, everything about this accident cried out for a field sobriety test. The admission of alcohol use, speed, driving the wrong way and injury-causing accident, along with some confused statements, warranted this test. A breathalyzer would be administered only after a suspect fails a field sobriety test.
Believe it or not, that's more for medical than law enforcement reasons. Breathalyzer results are notoriously unreliable and inadmissible in Court, but if a suspect blows a life-threatening 0.30, his next stop will be the local hospital. Otherwise, it's the DUI processing center.
This procedure was ignored. Cantelmi was just administered a breathalyzer without any field sobriety tests. Instead of taking him to the DUI processing center, Dino was taken to police headquarters, where he was administered the breathalyzer again, with the same result.
Although I doubt Acting Sergeant Henning "fixed" anything, his friendship with Callahan may have colored his judgment. I believe an officer with no ties to the Mayor would have approached this differently.
Incidentally, Henning is no longer an "acting" sergeant. He was promoted to in December 2007, nine months after this accident.
Coming Up: On Monday, I'll publish a redacted version of the incident report. Every time I look at it, I see something different. Some of you may notice things I've missed.