A recent ruling regarding the dismissal of a New Jersey police officer may be overturned based on two factors. One involves a medical board decision related to the lack of evidence that the officer was unfit for duty. The case has become quite controversial in the local tri-state area and has been the subject of a local news show.
An administrative judge later ruled in a multi-page document that although the officer had been involved in a heated argument with a superior, the punishment was severe. The judge claims the officer had no previous reputation of insubordination, and based on department records, had acted professionally on the job.
A popular consumer news show had reported the vehement admonition by the officer’s superior. The incident reportedly involved a repeated and vociferous rebuke by the administrator in front of coworkers. A street sign had blown down following a storm and the officer was accused of not taking care of the problem, as ordered. In the officer’s opinion, the reproach was excessive, and witnesses agreed. The officer had calmly stated that he was not disobeying orders but simply waiting for additional instructions. He admittedly lost his patience and also raised his voice.
After the alleged altercation, the officer was terminated and required to see a therapist. The department psychologist determined he was a danger to himself and others, and not fit for police duty.
A further review revealed the argument was an isolated incident and the officer’s thirteen year work record was flawless. The same psychologist had given him a perfect evaluation just a few months prior, and his scores on departmental promotion exams were stellar. It was the opinion of the officer’s legal advisor that the motive behind the dismissal was reluctance to promote a Latino officer.
The judge’s decision still must be upheld by the New Jersey Civil Service Commission. A spokesman for North Bergen says the town will appeal. However, reversals of administrative law and medical review decisions are considered rare.
Our peace officers put themselves in harm’s way to protect us and keep us safe from crime and malfeasance. In their defense we would hope this case of wrongful termination is repealed. Some day one of those responsible for racially discriminating against a peace officer may need his or her protection.
newjersey.news12.com, “KIYC: North Bergen officer to be rehired after wrongful termination” No author given, Oct. 28, 2013