Public Employee Discipline

A recent opinion rendered by the Appellate Division has important implications for all law enforcement officers, and all public employees for that matter, who are considering applying for disability retirement while simultaneously fighting disciplinary charges.  The case, Cardinale v. Board of Trustees, Police and Firemen’s Retirement System, A-1997-17T1, involved a police officer who was

Recently, the Superior Court of New Jersey, Appellate Division (“Appellate Division”) issued an opinion in the case In the Matter of Frank Harkcom, Bayside State Prison, Department of Corrections.  This case reinforces the fact that New Jersey Public Safety Officers must be mindful if there is a temporary (“TRO”) or final restraining order (“FRO”) 

Following a two week trial presided by the Honorable Anne E. Thompson, USDJ, in the United States District Court, District of New Jersey, a jury of ten men and women unanimously returned a verdict of “No Cause of Liability” against three State Corrections Officers, a State Corrections Sergeant and a State Corrections Lieutenant. 

Gavel Slam

As reported by N.J.com, the Pennsauken Police Department was right to suspend six officers in 2011 for violating rules and hindering the investigation of a fight that involved two off-duty officers, an appellate court has ruled.

The conduct was not directly related to the fight May 7, 2011, but to officers’ failure to properly

supreme-court-sealThe U.S. Supreme Court sided with former Paterson police officer Jeffrey J. Heffernan and ruled that his First Amendment rights were violated when he was demoted after picking up a campaign sign for the mayor’s opponent.  Heffernan had been demoted after supporters of Mayor Jose “Joey” Torres saw him picking up a campaign sign for

As reported in the Trenton Times on January 25, 2011, a judge has ordered Princeton Borough to reinstate a police officer who was suspended without pay in 2008 and to reimburse the officer for back pay and legal fees totaling an estimated $400,000.

Last week, Superior Court Judge Linda Feinberg dismissed all charges against Sergeant Kenneth Riley related to allegations that he wrongfully accessed a police department video database of motor vehicle stops in January of 2008. Feinberg issued an order requiring the borough to reinstate Riley effective this week.

Riley allegedly reviewed a video of a police stop that involved a drive suspected of drunken driving. A sergeant and three patrolmen were involved in the stop, and two of the patrol officers were under Riley’s supervision. During the stop, the sergeant allowed the driver to urinate in bushes on private property. Riley learned about the incident and believed the sergeant had violated policy.

A borough officer for 17 years and sergeant since 2006, Riley was suspended with pay in March 2008 along with two other officers as part of an internal affairs investigation related to the access of the video database. He was indicted by a grand jury in September 2008 and the borough stopped paying him in late September of 2008.

The Mercer County Prosecutor’s Office contended that Riley showed the footage to other officers in order to hurt the other sergeant’s standing in the department. Prosecutors claimed he was untruthful during questioning about when and why he accessed the database.

But, in November of 2009, a judge threw out the six-count indictment because Riley was authorized to access the database. Despite this finding, the Borough continued to pursue the case internally, racking up thousands of dollars more it would owe in back pay and legal fees. An administrative hearing officer upheld Riley’s suspension, which Riley then appealed in Superior Court.

Riley, who earned a salary of $103,706 annually, is owed about 28 months of pay, or more than $241,000, plus money he spent on health insurance and legal fees, for a total estimated to be about $400,000. Including the borough’s fees for its own lawyer, staff, and an administrative hearing officer, the case could cost borough taxpayers about $500,000.

Councilman Roger Martindell, a vocal critic of the borough’s handling of disciplinary matters, called the pursuit of disciplinary action against Riley “a colossal waste for borough taxpayers.” “It appears that the borough has spend hundreds of thousands of dollars in pursuit of disciplinary action against Sgt. Riley without a firm foundation for doing so,” he said.


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On July 20, 2010, the Appellate Division decided In the Matter of Latief Dickerson, Hudson County, Docket No.: A-1323-08T2. In the case, Latief Dickerson appealed from a final decision of the Civil Service Commission (“Commission”) terminating his employment as a corrections officer with the Hudson County Department of Corrections (“Department”).

On May

On June 3, 2010, the Appellate Division decided In the Matter of Torres Mayfield, Docket No.: A-2969-08T1. In the case, Torres Mayfield appealed from the final decision of the Civil Service Commission (“Commission”) terminating him as an Atlantic City police officer for misconduct.

Mayfield was charged with violations of Atlantic City Police Department