Long Branch suspends 8 cops for not working

     

    By KENNY WALTER
    Staff Writer

    LONG BRANCH — A group of Long Branch police officers working the midnight shift have been reprimanded for what is being deemed by city officials as not working while on duty.

    Mayor Adam Schneider said five officers and three supervisors were suspended, and the administration will be making changes to prevent further malfeasance from occurring.

    “There’s a culture of the midnight shift that we never picked up on,” he said. “We’re going to make some changes.

    “We have guys who have been on the midnight shift essentially their entire career and we are looking at breaking that up.”

    Schneider declined to identify the officers suspended, and city officials said any Open Public Records Act (OPRA) requests for the names would ultimately be rejected.

    Jason Roebuck, director of public safety, said the officers received varying suspensions ranging from 10 workdays to 45 workdays.

    Roebuck said he was unaware what the base salary was for the eight suspended employees but according to the city’s salary guide, patrolmen’s base salaries range  between approximately $51,000 and $114,000, and supervisor salaries range between $128,000 and $160,000.

    Roebuck said the officers will have options as to how to take their suspensions  so as not to leave the department short-staffed.

    “They were accused of not properly patrolling,” Roebuck said. “They’ve all received what they are going to get and they will now make decisions themselves as to whether they want to take days off with no pay, or they want to work extra shifts or they want to take vacation days or a combination of all three.”

    Schneider described what the officers are being accused of. “It was pretty clear there were periods of time where they were not working,” he said. “Cars were parked and they were not going anywhere.”

    Roebuck said the allegations occurred only during the officers’ normal work hours and not during overtime.

    Schneider said the city investigated allegations that the officers were working second jobs while on duty but that they did not find any evidence they were.

    However, he also said the punished officers will no longer be eligible to work second jobs, which requires approval from a supervisor for all Long Branch officers.

    Det. Michael Decker, president of Policemen’s Benevolent Association Local 10, did not return calls to provide a comment on the matter.

    Schneider said the investigation into the officers began in January after an anonymous letter was sent to the City Council and administration.

    “We came down with what we thought was harsh but fair punishment,” he said. “A lot of different people weighed in on this one.”

    According to Schneider, the city is required by law to assess punishments based on each officer’s past disciplinary record.

    “The analysis of every individual was different because everybody has a different disciplinary history,” Schneider said. “Some of them have worked for us for years and never had a problem.

    “Progressive discipline is our obligation, so if two guys do the same thing but one has been in trouble before, he’s getting a harsher punishment.”

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