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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 , Fair Lawn's council voted 4-1 (Deputy Mayor Joe Tedeschi was the lone "No" vote) to .

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.

David Boone

Michael Agosta December 07, 2011 at 12:27 PM
Dave, Thank you for your continued service. As I sit here at Frankfurt airport awaiting my flight to Dubai and ultimately Afghanistan, I know my family will be safe because of quality law enforcement officers like you. The politics in Fair Lawn have been costing us, the taxpayers, an awful lot of money. I do not think anything will change if the council waited until January to vote on this issue. It's shameful that the FLPD leadership is not held accountable for their actions and questionable judgement. It is more shameful that the council is shielding them.
MaximusProtectus December 07, 2011 at 02:37 PM
I too fully agree, Mr. Boone is correct, indemnification doesn't solve the real Problem. As I look at the problem, it seems to me the real issues are employee treatment. Whenever an employee feels any type of mistreatment, there are lawsuits. No doubt this is the cause of the problem. It is for the same reasons why the police bosses want Indemnification, the front line employee wants to be covered when they are injured. How can it be any other way when you are a police officer putting your life on the line? We must protect the people that protect us! There is something missing in this picture, can it be that the lawyers are causing most of the problems? Or is it the insurance companies protecting their interests? Either way its not working!
MaximusProtectus December 07, 2011 at 02:50 PM
Whats to disagree Stu, Theres something wrong going on in the handling of the boro employees.. What would you do if the company you worked for take an adverse action against you as a result of being injured? How about what was labeled in the other complaints, re-assigned a different position because of a right you have as an employee? How about being passed for promotion? The very guy who is chief passed people for promotion, the council caused this mess too!
FromTheSidelines December 07, 2011 at 04:52 PM
STU, Its also not fair to treat employees with disdain..APPARENTLY. the voters were correct in discarding you
FLSPIRIT December 07, 2011 at 08:11 PM
STU how freakin embarrassing, you ran for Council and you obviously DIDN'T get ALL your facts on much of anything because you LOST!!!! This very article shows the citizens EXACTLY what is taking place with the town between the Police Departement and the Council and probably within the Borough itself as well. You should've contacted your GREAT FRIEND Captain Cook to get some of the information, or maybe you DID and he LIED to you as well. The management within the Police Department is a JOKE and not one thing that those two do is within the best of interest to their men and women on the force. They are ALL about what is best for ME ME ME and each one of them would throw the other under a bus. Let's get to the real problem the council continues to cover up EVERYTHING and NEVER wants to solve ANYTHING. The ONLY way that this Police Department can get back to where it once was MANY MANY years ago, is to bring in an OLD SCHOOL guy/girl in who DOES NOT have any Politial connection to do what these two so called Chief and Captain FAILED to do. They are NOT capable of the job, Political appointments as you can tell ARE NOT the answer. These men and women go out there and Protect and Serve the citizens of Fair Lawn when the HELL is someone going to PROTECT them?
lance guinta December 07, 2011 at 08:47 PM
Sounds like the FLPD needs a "Police Director" please submit resumes to the new manager. Current employees are excluded. Can't fix the problem with the same mentality that created it.
Bruce Knuckle December 08, 2011 at 12:29 AM
Stu, you disagree, then say you dont have facts. What were you disagreeing with? Some facts to share with you. Multiple lawsuits have been filed. 1 has been settled, another the town lost and its under appeal for the monetary portion, and by the way, they lost and were found to be guilty of retaliation and the chief was found to have acted in a punitive manner. 3 more are pending and 'Im sure they wont come cheap. We have seen a Boro manager get run out because of a improperly purchase police car (chief was involved), 2 lawsuits from individuals claiming harrassment and brutality, morale lower than low and the latest, a screeming and crying woman running out of the captains office for something allegedly not work related. You are right in one aspect. We should demand the facts. The problem is, that the current council is hiding it all from us, the taxpayers. Look at the replay from last nights council meeting. The Mayor was more interested in the hard candy she was sucking on than what was being said. Go ahead, watch it, you'll see.
flabergasted December 08, 2011 at 01:32 AM
STU, do you realize that OJ was found guilty in 2008 and was sentenced to 33 years imprisonment? Trusting a jury has nothing to do with the makeup of an ill willed individual: eventually no matter how much sand a cat puts on his excrement, the smell comes through. Save your gossip and stick to facts
jerzeeGiy December 08, 2011 at 03:14 AM
Them put names to it...practice what you preach
Bruce Knuckle December 08, 2011 at 03:25 AM
Stu, then don't disagree as you did earlier. being skeptical is different than being in disagreement. Information will come out sooner or later and I am glad that PBA President Boone aired his opinion and position on this. It needs to be heard.
jerzeeGiy December 08, 2011 at 11:59 AM
Take a look at yhe Paramus Patch and read how tne Dept stood behind the injirrd officer and even promoted her...sadly we see its much different in Fair Lawn
Chris Antonelli December 08, 2011 at 02:00 PM
I really don't see how this changes anything. Ultimately, the Chief and Captain work for the Boro. All members of the FLPD are employees of the Boro. This will not solve the lawsuit issue. Until there is some harmonic balance in the department, there will always be turbulence. But what exactly does the Council expect to shield the Chief and Captain from? If they were to take on the mindset of being untouchable, that could end up costing the Boro even more down the road. I don't see it playing out that way, but nothing can be discounted. Jerzee, You are comparing this to a police officer being shot in the line of duty? Really? The only thing that may be injured here is feelings. And no matter what goes on between officers, I would like to think that they would put petty BS aside it the midst of a gun wielding maniac.
old timer December 08, 2011 at 03:26 PM
Chris, i believe you havent paid much attention. One of these Officers was run over purposefully by suspects and even shot at them...hardly hurt feelings..
Chris Antonelli December 08, 2011 at 04:38 PM
The Council, if possible, should be writing policy. Or at the very least assisting the person responsible for writing it. If you are injured, and the doc says you cannot perform your job, you are on disability. It is not up to anyone other than a doctor to determine that. DI is there to provide a financial safety net for reasons such as this. You should not have to exhaust sick and vacation time because of an injury suffered on the job. I don't know what the Councils true motive was behind doing this, but from what I read in the article from the PO in Paramus, it seems as if we are just following tradition. Wrapping a coat of Teflon around a few individuals is not a solution just because other towns do it. Who ever said that no one would take the job without the indemnification is wrong. Maybe we do need an outside person to run the PD. What Capt. Boone says is true in all occupations. There is no loyalty anymore, and no one has your back in personnel matters. Everyone goes into CYA mode. Not too mention, they will throw you under a bus to save their own asses. I really don't care whose idea it was. It was a bad one. Sorry if this sounds all over the place, but I'm trying to piece it together from the article.
Chris Antonelli December 08, 2011 at 05:25 PM
One other thing: If Judges, juries and arbitrators keep awarding plaintiffs in these cases, and keep finding fault with two specific individuals, what does that tell you?
old timer December 08, 2011 at 06:18 PM
Amen Chris.
Deleted because of harassment December 09, 2011 at 03:29 PM
The Council can not make PD policy - that is what the manager does. Nor can they hire , fire, or punish incompetence. I think what puts the lie of "disgruntled" employees to rest is the term of service of all the officers that have been forced to sue to resolve their complaints. There is no leadership that directs proper actions or resolves problems with authority; just a continuing story of partiality and favoritism and rules made up as they go along. Asking officers assigned to desk duty to wear a gun without recognizing the obvious injury that put them on light duty makes this impossible is just an example - in the real world, a manager that ignored a temporary disability or insisted an employee work in such a fashion would not only be sued, but a prudent company would have sanctioned the manager before it ever got that far. The act of putting the Borough at risk of financial responsibility for actions taken shows only that the Council through the Borough Manager's office fails to require the management of the PD to have clear policies, and to hold them to those policies or address the lack of them. And if the leadership, like the manager of a baseball team, fails to be leadership, it needs to be replaced, before there is no leadership at all but anarchy. Unfortunately, what we have now is the result of politics, not leadership skills, running the police.
Chris Antonelli December 09, 2011 at 04:28 PM
Ahhhh.... Deleted....... Wrong. Many town Councils have fired police officers, and they have withstood challenges. And they do hire. Who does the Chief go to for staffing? Do a little research before posting. Most departments have policies that while in uniform, all officers must wear all equipment. If there is a reason why the officer cannot, that's a different story. I won't even comment on the rest.
Deleted because of harassment December 09, 2011 at 05:57 PM
Chris: You don't know what you are talking about. And you need to do your own research on how Fair Lawn's form of government works, because your comments about "many towns" show you don't understand it. Policies, under civil service law, that are unwritten are also unenforceable in the legal system. The Manager does just what the name implies - manages the town, including all employees. The Council handles the legal end and adminsters all laws and budgets, including the statuatory requirements for all civil service positions. There is a certain amount of give-and-take of opinion, but the final say on employees in the operation of the town is the Manager. Go and look it up yourself.
Chris Antonelli December 09, 2011 at 06:34 PM
Council does laws and policy. Manager does budget and employees. Show me where it is written that the Council cannot move to fire a PO? Anyway, all that would be needed would be a move to a police director. The Council can easily get that done if they wanted to.
Deleted because of harassment December 09, 2011 at 09:25 PM
I can't figure out if you are as disengenous as you sound or just confused. The Faulkner Act is where "it is written". That's where the powers and authorities of the various members of Fair Lawn's form of government are described in detail. Also the Civil Service Act dictates what can and can not be done to an employee who fit the title of the act. The Council can unfund a position title, but not fire anyone in particular - they can file a complaint that the employee committed a violation under the Civil Service Act and send charges against the employee to the Manager, or formally file under the procedures of that act. But the firing is done by the Manager, in their name or under the Manger's own authority. That's why the move to a police director the last time someone wanted to change Chiefs. However, it needs a majority approval of the council, and requires notice of the change to the Chief, who can then file charges to resist - and costing Fair Lawn even more lawyer's fees. My bet would be a subtle suggestion to retire - Erik was in my sixth grade class when I moved to FL in 1966 and in school with me all through high schooll graduation - backed up by a threat of sanctions via the Manager under the Civil Service Act if he doesn't. Ironically, he's only two years younger than Kneer, the man accusing him of trying to force him to retire.
Chris Antonelli December 09, 2011 at 09:46 PM
Right. Yours would be the long version. Anyway, I'd like to see everyone work out the issues. When morale in your workplace is down, it makes your job that much harder. Police have enough garbage to deal with. They don't need any from their peers.
Nonsense September 18, 2012 at 07:31 PM
Well David, almost a full year with the new crew and nothing has been done, seems like you were right!

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