Officer on leave after teen party

GIRARD – A city police officer was placed on paid administrative leave after his home was raided Saturday night during a party where there was suspected underaged drinking and marijuana use.

Police officials said they had received information weeks ago that there had been parties involving underage drinking at the home of Patrolman Larry Neely, 39, at 532 Mosier Road.

According to police reports, officers entered a garage located on the premises where they made contact with multiple juveniles and several 18-year-old adults. Once entering a “rec room” within the garage, officers observed “multiple beer cans on what appeared to be a ping-pong table” in addition to smelling the “distinct odor of freshly burned marijuana.”

Girard police Chief Jeff Palmer said his department is conducting internal and criminal investigations that he hopes to have “wrapped up” by the weekend.

“We don’t condone this type of ongoing behavior or activity like this involving any of our officers,” he said. “Something like this is actually a lot more serious than it might appear to be on the surface. Our officers received information several weeks ago and followed due diligence.”

Mayor Jim Melfi said on Wednesday evening that he stands by the police department and believes they acted properly in their response to the incident.

“First and foremost, I know the police handled (the incident) very well and made sure that all of the young people involved got home safely to their parents,” Melfi said. “From that point on, the police have an independent investigation that will hopefully discover what took place.”

Melfi added that it was his understanding that Neely, who has been with the department for about six years, was on duty at the time of the incident. It is not clear whether officials believe he had any involvement.

Information police received over the department’s tip line indicated that over the past several weeks the parties had taken place in the garage Saturdays beginning between 9:30 and 10 p.m. Police were also informed that the party attendees would not park at the residence, but park within a short walking distance so “as to not bring attention to the residence,” police reports state.

Police said they were patrolling the area on Saturday when they saw cars arriving with “known juveniles” parking on Iowa Avenue, which is adjacent to the residence. Police said as they were watching the house more vehicles arrived, parked on Iowa Avenue and the juveniles in those vehicle went to Neely’s home.