Police Chief Charged With More Than 130 Violations Has Collected Over $115,000 Without Working A Day This Year

from the the-system's-flaws-exposed-on-a-grand-scale dept

Law enforcement officials are right: crime doesn’t pay. Or at least, it doesn’t pay enough to get you back out of bed and pounding the pavement. Law enforcement is where the real money is at and best of all, you can be an (allegedly) amoral jerk and still rake in a nice salary without leaving the house… for nine straight months.

Irvington Police Chief Michael Chase hasn’t worked a single day in the past nine months, but a series of legal fits and starts has allowed the town’s suspended top cop to take home roughly $115,000 so far this year, leading to a state investigation, officials said.

Chase was suspended in December 2012 after an investigation by the Essex County Prosecutor’s Office accused him of quashing a probe into alleged misconduct by his police officer nephew and charged him with failing to properly supervise his department’s Internal Affairs Unit. Accused of more than 130 violations of Attorney General’s Office guidelines and police department rules, Chase was suspended — with pay — indefinitely.

Chase is scheduled to make $154,272 this year and he’s collected three-fourths of that from the sidelines. Why? Because his lawyer has filed for extension after extension, which have prevented disciplinary hearings from taking place — something that should have happened within 30-45 days according to state guidelines. Chase’s lawyer is definitely working harder than Chase, digging himself out from under the “thousands of pages of documents” that 130+ violations bring with them.

In addition to helping his nephew escape misconduct charges, Chase has racked up a variety of violations over the past several years. Here’s a few highlights:

[C]hase has been sued by female officers six times since 1998. Court records show the complaints largely dealt with sexual harassment and discrimination

[A]fter a fatal 2009 police pursuit, Chase “refused to fill out a pursuit form as mandated by the Attorney General Guidelines … and stated that he was not involved in the pursuit.” As the internal affairs commander, [Andrea] Koontz ordered detectives to investigate Chase, and claims she uncovered video and audio recordings that confirmed his involvement, according to the suit. [This is in addition to her harrassment suit against Chase.]

The prosecutor’s report… found Irvington’s internal affairs unit failed to properly investigate 113 citizen complaints against officers between April and August of last year [2012].

[Chase] ordered on-duty detectives to take his wife’s car to be repaired…

The report also suggested Chase used the Internal Affairs Unit to unfairly punish officers he had disagreements with.

Believe it or not, Chase is not being charged with any criminal activity. In fact, the state prosecutors declined to bring any charges against Chase and dumped it all into Police Director Joseph Santiago’s lap. Santiago has said Chase “could” lose his job and that suspending him with pay does not violate state guidelines. (No criminal charges, no loss of pay.)

Not only has the legal process dragged on for nine months, but Chase’s representation has changed since he was first suspended back in December of 2012. Chase was originally represented by criminal defense attorney Steven Altman, best known for defending Dharun Ravi in the Tyler Clementi cyber-bullying case. Nine months later, he’s represented Joseph Donahue, a criminal defense attorney who is one of several “covered” lawyers listed by the New Jersey Policemen’s Benevolent Association. Altman’s name isn’t on the list, which presumably means Chase switched over to a NJPBA-approved representative in order to avail himself of the association’s legal defense fund.

Everything checks out legally and Chase is still facing nothing more than allegations, albeit ones that are both numerous and severe. It’s hard to argue his pay should be cut off before he receives his day in court, but it’s also hard to justify paying out over $100,000 to someone who hasn’t worked since December of last year.

There’s a whole lot of imperfect systems meshing here and it has put Police Director Santiago in the unenviable position of pissing off the citizens in his jurisdiction. He can’t cut off the paychecks without criminal charges and he can’t allow Chase to return to work because the allegations are too severe. And you can’t blame his defense attorney for wanting to provide the best service for his client, even if wading through thousands of documents is indistinguishable from a stalling tactic when viewed from the outside. What should be of concern is the fact that these abuses went on for so long without intermediate disciplinary measures being enacted, other than a court awarding a former police sergeant $1.4 million and charging Chase with discrimination back in 2007. The fact that the department’s Internal Affairs office was (allegedly) compliant means there will need to be some serious housecleaning if the charges stick.

Put it all together and the only one who seems to be making out alright in this deal is the one charged with 100+ violations. That certainly seems wrong but there’s really no better option, at least not if you want to continue treating the accused as “innocent until proven guilty.” About all anyone can do is hope that if Chase is found guilty, the end result is more than some light wrist slaps and the unimpeded collection of paychecks. Without an effective deterrent, more people in his position are going to realize that the system, while ostensibly working as it should, is easily exploited.

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Comments on “Police Chief Charged With More Than 130 Violations Has Collected Over $115,000 Without Working A Day This Year”

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31 Comments
Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re:

How is that different than throttling your internet based on allegations of infringing? That way you still get a portion of your internet to live on while the rest is only accessible after you’ve been found innocent.

Do you ever get tired of carrying around that double standard? It must get awfully heavy.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re:

Eeeeehhhhh, that’s a stretch.

As long as you’re not getting so little money you literally can’t live, the most you can claim you lost by having money held back is the chance you had to invest that money.

If you’re throttled, it’s generally long past the point of your connection being useful at all, and if you’re found innocent, it’s not like you suddenly have a connection that’s 2x as fast for a while to make up for your lost time. You just go back to normal. If you’re lucky.

Rikuo (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re:

If I’m accused of infringing (copyright I presume you mean, you kinda left that word out) and my connection is throttled, I don’t get anything back if I’m found innocent. It’s not like they store say 75% of my max speed in a box somewhere, and after my trial, give it to me such that I somehow now have 175% of my contracted speed.

PaulT (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re:

So, you don’t see the difference between a disciplinary proceeding, brought by their employer against some meant to uphold laws for 130 violations of internal procedures, and government mandated restriction of communications based on a handful accusations from a biased 3rd party? Where the punishment is handed out after the fact in the first instance and before a defence can be presented in the second? These are equivalent situations in your mind?

Don’t you get tired of being so utterly wrong on every fact presented to you, or is distortion of those facts the only way you have left to defend these people?

“How is that different than throttling your internet based on allegations of infringing?”

Very different, but at least we’re talking about throttling rather than the immediate disconnection without any right to a defence that you guys were pushing for.

Ninja (profile) says:

Re: Re:

It works like that in Brazil. If there’s a dispute you have to deposit any payments in a ‘judicial’ account. It will remain there till the disputes are settled. I’m not sure if there’s any way to get part of the money though, it goes beyond my knowledge but common sense says it could be worked out if the only income of the accused was that money. Still it could be an interesting idea to prevent such abuses.

That One Guy (profile) says:

Here's a question:

I can certainly agree with him not being unduly punished before he gets his day in court, but given the massive misconduct he’s being accused of, why is he getting the same pay that he would were he on the job?

You’d think that they’d cut his ‘pay’ down or something, maybe to half while he’s being investigated, due to the whole ‘not working thing’, and use the difference to either give him one heck of a bonus should he be proven innocent, or help pay the court fees the case racks up should he be proven guilty.

With how it is currently, where the ‘punishment’ is apparently ‘you don’t have to work, but you still get paid the same’, other than maybe having to look for a job if found guilty, that seems more like an incentive, rather than punishment.

ShellMG (profile) says:

Re: Here's a question:

“I can certainly agree with him not being unduly punished before he gets his day in court, but given the massive misconduct he’s being accused of, why is he getting the same pay that he would were he on the job? “

Union contracts and a lazy, corrupt city government.

The slightest whiff of a possible union action against any elected official will usually put a stop to any thoughts of being fiscally responsible and not padding pensions. The squishy office-holder will cave or, more commonly, play kick-the-can and sweeten pensions and union money and power grabs.

Good grief, where does this “cop” think he lives, Detroit?

art guerrilla (profile) says:

due process, blah blah blah

sure, if the system worked as advertised, it don’t…

you, me, and the 99% have a WHIFF of *SOME* sort of ‘wrongdoing’ (not even illegal), and we are gone from our jobs before the evening news…

privileged donut-eaters and our other superiors, eat babies for breakfast, and they get paid leave…

the ones who should be under MOST scrutiny, who should be MOST observant of the law, skate away unscathed…

us hoi polloi ? lucky if we aren’t summarily executed for bad attitudes…

art guerrilla
aka ann archy
eof

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re:

“An innocent man would jump at that deal.

I don’t like anything like this. This is the same reasoning that has the government saying it’s okay to get all our data since us being innocent should have nothing to hide.

If you’re going “innocent until proven guilty”, he should receive the pay, but be liable to repay his salary received after the initial 30-45 days if found guilty to a level where he is terminated from his position.

Anonymous Coward says:

If he’s being charged with 130 different things, would it be possible to fast-track just one (or a few) of the charges, preferably ones that are less related to the rest?

That way the lawyer doesn’t have to go through everything, the presumably innocent cop can quickly show that there is not proof of the allegations against him, and if he IS guilty, they have at least SOMETHING to justify taking him off the payroll.

Anonymous Coward says:

Pay him some minimal amount (NOT 6 figures) and if he’s found innocent, then he gets a nice check for all the back pay he missed out on. Most people who get accused of wrongdoing at their normal non-public-servant jobs don’t get this kind of opportunity. They just get fired if most of the evidence points to them being guilty. Yet those who are in charge of enforcing the law (and because of this it’s even more important that they don’t break it themselves) are given special treatment.

Anonymous Coward says:

For decades people have searched for the proverbial welfare queen … perhaps they were looking in the wrong places.

Give this guy a broom and a mop, surely he knows how to use them. Where are the self righteous demanding that everyone getting government assistance do some sort of work, you would think this guy might be included on their hit parade.

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