Officer Who Sued Retired Captain May Succeed Him
Lt. Bob Kneer, a 39-year Fair Lawn police veteran, is the only officer currently eligible to fill the department's vacancy left by last week's retirement of Capt. Joseph Cook.
A Fair Lawn police officer who filed suit against his superiors in 2011, alleging they had created a hostile work environment and repeatedly denied him promotion, may finally receive the bump in rank he's sought for the past three years.
Borough manager Tom Metzler, who is responsible for making departmental promotions, declined comment on his choice for captain, but confirmed that Kneer was the only officer on the certified civil service captain's list.
Kneer, a United States Marine veteran, joined the force in 1973, and has commanded the department's Honor Guard ever since. He rose through the department's ranks bouncing between the patrol division and the detective bureau until 2003, when he became a lieutenant in the patrol division, the position he currently holds.
Over the course of his nearly four-decade-long career, Kneer has received multiple longevity awards and twice been named "Policeman of the Year."
But the Vietnam-era veteran's road to captain has been an arduous one.
A lawsuit Kneer filed in August 2011 attests to a rocky relationship with both Chief Erik Rose and Cook, the man he may soon replace.
In the suit, which names Rose and Cook as defendants, Kneer alleges he was repeatedly tormented by the chief and captain because of his age, and passed over in favor of officers more than 15 years his junior for the positions of captain, accreditation lieutenant and detective lieutenant.
Kneer claims that, despite expressing his interest in a promotion to captain in 2010, he had to fight just to receive a customary in-person interview with the chief and borough manager. He was never interviewed for the position of accreditation lieutenant, his suit alleges.
According to the suit, Kneer's detractors even amended the department's organizational chart in 2010, deliberately eliminating what had been a third captain position for which he was the top officer eligible.
The suit alleges that the harassment from Cook became so severe that during a meeting with Rose to discuss it, Kneer began shaking and fainted.
"Get Captain Cook off my back," the suit alleges Kneer said upon coming to. "Enough is enough. I can't take it."
Cook has repeatedly declined to discuss the lawsuit's allegations.
Kneer has also declined to discuss his pending suit against the borough and the department's top brass, but appeared in good spirits on the day Cook announced his retirement last week.
He said he was "without a doubt" interested in moving up the ranks to captain.
Fair Lawn Policemen's Benevolent Association president Michael O'Brien said he would welcome Kneer's promotion.
"Lt. Kneer has been an integral part of the police department for 40 years," O'Brien said. "He's a passionate and caring leader for both the officers and the community. He's shown that through his involvement with various programs and the way he conducts business with the community."
If Kneer is promoted to captain, the move would open up spots for a new lieutenant and a new sergeant within the department.
Sgt. James Corcoran and Detective Timothy O'Shaughnessy are the top-ranking officers on the civil service lists for lieutenant and sergeant, respectively.