Op-Ed: Indemnification Doesn't Solve the Real Problem
David Boone, Fair Lawn Policemen's Benevolent Association Local 67 President, discusses his thoughts on the indemnification of Police Chief Erik Rose and Captain Joseph Cook
At Tuesday's council meeting, Fair Lawn's council voted 4-1 (Deputy Mayor Joe Tedeschi was the lone "No" vote) to shield Police Chief Erik Rose and Captain Joseph Cook from liability in a number of lawsuits filed against them by police officers who seek punitive damages.
David Boone, Fair Lawn's PBA president, offers his thoughts on the indemnification:
I was told a while ago by a council member that they felt that they have to indemnify the chief or else "no one would ever take the job." While I completely understand the logic behind this, I also understand that this could create an endless cycle of lawsuits. Bad management does not get better by covering its mistakes. The problem now is clearly that we have entered this vicious cycle of paying for the mismanagement, but never addressing the problems.
The atmosphere in the police department is the total mistrust of the two senior leaders of the department. This has been developed and cultivated by their leadership or lack thereof. I had the privilege of serving for three years in the United States Army Special Operations Command. While there I served under some of the finest leaders this country had to offer. I am not just talking about Generals or Colonels, but about officers and enlisted men. It was a great atmosphere to serve my country in. It was one in which I knew that my leaders would not ask me to go where they were not willing to go. At one point during the Gulf War, my commander, Lt. Col. Dell Dailey, led a dangerous mission which Army leaders later said was unheard of because of the danger involved. But this man was the kind of leader you could follow to the very gates of hell. He later became a Lt. General and Ambassador in charge of counter terrorism for the USA. This is where I learned about leadership and how effective it could be in leading an military or para-military organization.
The officers of the department now feel that their every move is questioned and that their leadership will not back them. This is a dangerous position to put everyone in. For example, officers are injured in the line of duty and now they are treated as if they are the enemy or the suspect who caused the injury. You need only read the statements posted on the disability insurers website to see that they are not in business to help the injured, but to save money even at the expense of the injured person's health.
It is easy to stand on the sidelines and point your finger and say, "it's just a few disgruntled officers," but it takes real leadership to say, "what can we do to find out what the real problems are, fix them, and improve everything we do." If the council is going to continue to indemnify bad management of the police department, maybe it is time to bring in a professional to straighten things out.
This whole issue of indemnification should have been deferred to the new council in January, but politics is what got us to where we are and I guess it will continue to drive this ship to the bottom of the sea.