By Ronald Bakley
Rutgers University’s disciplinary policy, or lack thereof, affecting their police officers violates several State and Federal Laws, not to mention Supreme Court decisions affording all employees certain rights under the Department of Labor and State Statute.
Over the past several years, Rutgers police officers come to work on a daily basis not knowing if actions they take as police officers will result in immediate disciplinary charges against them that may result in reprimands, suspensions or terminations without these officers having the opportunity to defend themselves and receive the proper representation afforded them under such Court decisions as Garrity, where an employer must advise an employee if any charges may result in criminal prosecution, Weingarten, which affords an employee to have the representative of his or her choice present during an interrogation by the Internal Affairs Unit of the Rutgers Police Department and New Jersey State Statutes which afford all New Jersey law enforcement officers certain due process rights during internal affairs investigations.
Rutgers University violates these on a daily basis.
For several years, the Rutgers Administration, including their Vice President responsible for Public Safety and the Police Department, have refused to negotiate a fair and equitable disciplinary policy with The Fraternal Order of Police (FOP), which represents the Rutgers Police officers. As a result, these officers work under constant fear of reprisals and disciplinary charges as they go about their assignments, which can greatly affect their ability to perform their duties. These situations can have an adverse effect not only on the officers, but the student body, faculty, administrators and residents living in and around the Rutgers’ facilities.
Also, due to the Governor’s consolidation of Rutgers, UMDNJ and Rowan University, these policies will definitely have an affect on these other officers as well due to the fact they will all come under the administration of Rutgers.
The Rutgers mentality is that an officer is guilty before even having an opportunity to defend himself or herself. They are given what the University calls a “Pre-determination” hearing which amounts to nothing more than a “kangaroo court”, after which the officer receives whatever discipline the administration deems necessary. All without being given the opportunity to have proper representation or bring in defense witnesses.
The only way for these officers to get a somewhat proper hearing is to file a grievance through their Collective Bargaining Agreement (contract), which, during the first three steps, the administration denies, causing the FOP to file for grievance arbitration which is a time consuming, expensive process.
Over the past three years, there have been 31 Rutgers Police Officers who have resigned due to the stress they have experienced because of the disciplinary procedures that this Administration has forced upon them.
Also, there have been two law suits brought by two Rutgers officers who were illegally fired as well as the numerous arbitrations filed by the FOP on behalf of these officers which have overturned or amended almost every reprimand, suspension and firing of those officers that were not afforded the proper protections given them by the aforementioned Laws and Court decisions.
Parents of Rutgers students, and taxpayers, should be aware that this Administration is spending tens of thousands of dollars in tuition money and tax dollars defending themselves for these frivolous charges. They should also be aware that the existing conditions affecting these officers also poses a public safety risk to the students and others in and around the three campuses and could considerably affect those at Rowan University and the University of Medicine and Dentistry campuses as well when all are consolidated into Rutgers University.
All we, the Officers of Rutgers University who protect the students and citizens and the FOP ask for is to be able to sit down with the respective Administrators and negotiate the implementation of a fair and equitable system that affords all police officers, and the University, the rights under the above mentioned Statutes and Court decisions. The Officers that protect and serve the communities of our State Colleges deserve these protections.
Ronald Bakley, National Trustee
New Jersey Fraternal Order of Police