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Riverhead’s top DWI-catching cop sues police department

Riverhead Police Officer Tim Murphy is best known for handing out more driving while intoxicated arrests than just about any police officer on the East End. 

Since joining Riverhead Police in 1999, he’s led the department in the number of DWI arrests issued in at least 16 of those years, and he even led all officers in Suffolk County in that category at least once. 

He’s been honored by Suffolk County and Riverhead Town several times for his efforts in eliminating drunk driving. 

But as of January 2018, Officer Murphy has been moved off his steady midnight tour, he says, and that this was done against his will and in violation of the Police Benevolent Association contract. 

In December, he filed a federal lawsuit against Riverhead Town and the Riverhead Police Department, and claims he is being discriminated against on the basis of age. He is 49. 

In the lawsuit, which he filed without an attorney,  he says he was replaced on the midnight tour with an officer under 40, and that he feels the town is attempting to convince him to retire because of his age. He says losing the midnight shift has deprived him of night differential pay, which is awarded to officers who work between 4 p.m. and 8 a.m., under the contract. The most recent PBA contract increased night differential from $6,450 to $7,250 per year. 

Mr. Murphy said in the lawsuit the PBA contract has a memorandum of understanding that permits the Police Department to make changes to work shifts, but that this MOU also outlines a procedure that must be followed to do so. Mr. Murphy says in his lawsuit that this procedure was not followed in his case. 

Officer Murphy said that since Jan. 1, 2018, he has lost $3,000 in night differential pay. The lawsuit was filed Dec. 18, 2018.

Mr. Murphy also seeks $20,073 in reimbursement for lost wages from his final average salary and pension.

The pension is calculated at 50 percent of the average final salary of the last three years of service, plus an additional amount for every additional year over 20. Officer Murphy was a New York City police officer and detective before joining the Riverhead department. 

The lawsuit says the value of the lost pension is about $659 per year for the rest of his life. 

Mr. Murphy is also seeking to be reimbursed legal fees and court filing fees related to the case. 

Meanwhile, the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission closed its file on Mr. Murphy’s complain.

“Based upon its investigation, the EEOC is unable to conclude that the information obtained established violations of the statutes,” they wrote. “This does not certify that the respondent (the town) is in compliance with the statutes. No finding is made as to any other issues that might be construed as having been raised by this charge.” 

Mr. Murphy did not respond to an email seeking comment. 

Riverhead Police Chief David Hegermiller declined to comment because the case is in litigation.

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Photo caption: Timothy Murphy (center, holding plaque) has been named a top DWI cop in 2015. (Credit: courtesy, file)