Veteran New Jersey State Police Trooper Staff Sgt. Steven M. Jones Stole Thousands Of Dollars Worth Of Gasoline From State Fuel Pumps – Gets Sweet Retirement Deal With Pension That Doesn’t Include Prison Time

June 26, 2012

TRENTON, NEW JERSEY — For more than three years, a veteran State Police trooper stole thousands of dollars worth of gasoline from state fuel pumps for his personal vehicles without being detected — and when authorities did catch on, he was not charged criminally and was allowed to retire with pension.

Disciplinary records obtained by The Star-Ledger show Staff Sgt. Steven M. Jones admitted in April that he stole 3,128 gallons of gas valued at $7,038 from October 2007 to March 2011. The 25-year trooper then retired under a negotiated plea agreement with internal affairs.

At the same time that Jones was fueling up on the taxpayers’ dime, a government watchdog warned the State Police it was not doing enough to track gas use by troopers.

“There are documented cases where abuses have been discovered,” the Office of the State Auditor said in a 2008 report. “However, systematic monitoring is not performed.”

The findings echoed the auditor’s concerns raised a year earlier about weaknesses in how the state monitors fuel fill-ups for its entire fleet — a system overseen by the state Treasury Department, which at the time vowed to make improvements.

Five years later, the state has yet to award a contract that would enact safeguards to curtail state troopers and other employees from stealing gas.

“Until all safeguards are in place, there remains a risk of abuse,” said Peter McAleer, spokesman for the state Comptroller’s Office, which documented weak oversight over vehicles used by the Department of Children and Families in 2009.

The Treasury Department said it is now reviewing contract proposals for a new system to monitor fill-ups through real-time reporting of details such as who requested the gas and how much was pumped. Officials would not say if there is a timetable for awarding a contract.

“These types of things, particularly high-tech systems like this, tend to take awhile to actually get the contract in place,” a spokesman for Treasury, Bill Quinn, said.

In the case of trooper Jones, a spokesman for the State Police, Acting Sgt. 1st Class Brian Polite, said the incident focused on the “inappropriate actions of one individual.”

“A thorough internal investigation was conducted and appropriate disciplinary actions were taken,” Polite said.

He did not respond to questions about how the theft went on for years without being detected, how Jones was caught or what is done to monitor gas use.

Jones was suspended without pay in March for about two weeks before retiring under the plea agreement with internal affairs. Records show he forfeited his accrued personal, holiday and vacation time, which was worth roughly the same amount that he stole in gas. He is also barred from holding another law enforcement job in New Jersey and from obtaining a gun permit for retired officers, records show.

The State Police Retirement Board last month reduced Jones’ pension from 65 percent of his final salary to 50 percent because of the theft and also revoked his medical benefits. Last year, Jones earned a regular salary of about $105,000, not including overtime and other pay, according to state payroll records.

During the board’s hearing, Jones, 47, said he was a recovering alcoholic but did not always follow his treatment routine during the time he stole the gas. He also said he worked a large amount of overtime but could not overcome his debt, which led to his actions.

“Sometimes I do things I don’t normally do,” Jones said. He did not return a phone call seeking further comment.
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Jones was not charged criminally, and case law prevents a police officer’s admission during an administrative review to be the basis for subsequent criminal charges. A spokesman for the Attorney General’s Office, Paul Loriquet, declined to comment specifically about the case.

“If we have sufficient proof that a law enforcement officer has committed a crime, we’ll prosecute that officer, as we would any other individual that committed a crime,” Loriquet said.

A source familiar with the case said it was reviewed by prosecutors at the Attorney General’s Office and there was not enough evidence to bring charges. The source was not allowed to discuss criminal investigations and requested anonymity.

The state Auditor’s report in 2008 noted the weak protections of the State Police’s fueling system. Most gas cards are assigned to individual patrol cars, though some are “transient” cards that can be used by any trooper at a particular barracks.

Three sources with knowledge of the State Police’s fueling system said it relies largely on the honor system and not every fueling yard has cameras to deter abuse. The sources requested anonymity because they were not allowed to speak with the media.

In addition, though fuel pumps ask for a badge number after a card is swiped, a trooper can enter anyone’s badge number and get gas. The auditor’s report said that makes tracking individual usage difficult.

“Having a more secure identification number associated with each transaction would make monitoring more effective,” the report said.

In its review of the state’s entire fuel monitoring system in 2007, the auditor noted there were multiple fill-ups on the same day, fill-ups exceeding fuel tank capacities and inconsistent mileage tracking.

The state has in the past charged public employees for stealing gas.

In 2008, the Attorney General’s Office charged a dozen public employees, including six with ties to the Department of Children and Families, in connection with stealing about 1,400 gallons of gas for their personal vehicles from government-run pumps.

In response to the arrests, the Comptroller’s Office reviewed the department and found hundreds of questionable fuel transactions and weak oversight. McAleer, the spokesman for the office, said the department has since made substantial improvements.

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Dozens Of Florida Police Officers “Punished” By Departments For Speeding – No Tickets For Breaking Laws, Just The Usual Slap On The Wrist

June 7, 2012

MIAMI, FLORIDA – Miami’s top cop is speaking about the dozens of his officers who were punished for speeding.

Miami Police Chief Manuel Orosa and other South Florida police chiefs are taking swift action against some of their own officers, who have been accused of speeding. “A lot of chiefs were unaware that they had this situation going on, and now that it’s out in the light, now it’s time for us to take the appropriate action,” said Orosa.

In October, a Florida Highway Patrol trooper arrested Miami Police officer Fausto Lopez for speeding. “He’s well over 120, and he’s not stopping,” the trooper said in a dashcam video before the arrest, which quickly went viral.

Lopez was sentenced to 100 hours of community service. Now, the Miami Police officer has also been suspended for a month and has lost his take-home cruiser for three months.

A “Sun Sentinel” article brought to light the growing issue of speeding law enforcement officers. A total of 36 officers with the City of Miami Police Department are facing a variety of consequences for speeding, which range from losing the privilege to take home their cruisers to possibly losing their jobs. Orosa said, “It’s different ranges, depending on the amount of violations.”

The department is also starting to implement methods to help prevent their officers from speeding. Forty GPS devices will be installed into police cruisers, and radar guns that were given to traffic cops will be returned to Internal Affairs. “We put them back in Internal Affairs,” Orosa said, “and they’re doing radars as a matter of policy. We’re moving back in that direction.”

The MPD is not alone; a total of 94 officers from different agencies across South Florida have been reprimanded. Meanwhile, FHP has taken disciplinary action on 31 of its troopers. Seven officers have been punished in Sunrise: Four are receiving counseling, and three lost their take-home cars for a period ranging from one week, up to six months.

In Davie, four officers were reprimanded. One was written up, and three lost their take-home-vehicle privileges.

The Fraternal Order of Police called the disciplinary actions too severe. “Now they’re overreacting to something that could’ve been dealt with administratively in a less harsh manner,” said Armando Aguilar, president of the Miami FOP.

Miami Police officers represent over a third of the officers who have been punished for speeding.

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Former Charlotte-Mecklenburg Police Officer Marcus Jackson Released From Prison After Just 2 Years – Slap On The Wrist For Sexually Assaulting 6 Women While On Duty – Faced A Dozen Sex Related Charges

May 26, 2012

CHARLOTTE, NORTH CAROLINA – Former Charlotte-Mecklenburg police officer Marcus Jackson was released from prison on Friday, more than two years after he was arrested for sexually assaulting women while on duty.

Jackson, 28, now must complete nine months of post-release supervision and is required to register as a sex offender, said a spokesman with the N.C. Department of Public Safety.

Jackson pleaded guilty in December 2010 to more than a dozen sex-related charges in connection with assaults on six women. He was sentenced to about two years, though he received credit for 344 days he’d spent in jail after his initial arrest.

Records show Jackson most recently was incarcerated at the Pamlico Correctional Institution, a medium-custody facility near the Outer Banks. He’d also spent time in Central Prison, and had committed no infractions during his incarceration, according to the website of the state Division of Adult Correction.

Jackson’s public defender could not be reached for comment.

On Friday, an attorney for two of Jackson’s accusers said they were aware of his release and were worried about whether he would return to Charlotte.

“The irony is that Marcus Jackson is being released (Friday) from jail. He’s now paid his debt to society and is able to move on with his life,” said attorney Brad Smith. “Our clients, however, are still waiting for a resolution to this matter.”

Jackson was arrested in December of 2009 after two women told police he’d sexually assaulted them during traffic stops. In one case, a 17-year-old girl said Jackson offered not to write a ticket in exchange for her performing oral sex on him.

Authorities have said Jackson fondled the other five women.

Jackson was terminated after the initial allegations surfaced. But the case raised questions about his hiring with the Charlotte-Mecklenburg police department.

Police admitted that a pre-employment screening did not turn up a domestic violence restraining order filed by Jackson’s girlfriend, which should have disqualified him. The department has since made changes to its hiring procedures.

Meanwhile, the city of Charlotte also has spent nearly $700,000 to defend and settle lawsuits filed by some of Jackson’s accusers.

But two remaining civil suits involving Smith’s clients are expected to go to trial in early 2013, after the accusers rejected the city’s offer. Smith said the case is currently in the discovery phase.

The city has retained outside counsel, including attorney Jim Cooney of the firm Womble Carlyle Sandridge & Rice, to help with its defense on the civil cases. City officials said it is not unusual to retain outside counsel for cases involving an officer or employee, and the attorneys are paid from the city’s risk fund.

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Former Veteran Woodridge Illinois Police Officer Scott Webb Pleads Guilty To $30,000+ Theft From Charity For A Slap On The Wrist – Fled State And Was Arrested In Missouri After 5 Month Search

May 26, 2012

WOODRIDGE, ILLINOIS – A former Woodridge police officer who pled guilty to stealing thousands of dollars from a police charity to benefit the families of fallen officers will serve no additional jail time.

Webb, 40, was sentenced today to two years probation and 180 days in jail in DuPage County Circuit Court by Judge Kathryn Creswell, according to the DuPage County State’s Attorney’s Office. He could have received a maximum of seven years in prison.

Paul Darrah, a spokesman for the State’s Attorney’s Office, said even though Webb was sentenced to 180 day in prison, he has already served more than 220 days since Webb never made bond from his arrest last fall.

Webb plead guilty last month to felony theft charges to stealing more than $30,000 from a charity to benefit the families of fallen police officers.

Darrah said Webb has paid more than $31,000 in restitution for the theft.

Webb, a 10-year veteran of the force, was indicted last May on felony theft charges that allege he misdirected donations to a charity that raised funds to support family members, friends and colleagues of police officers killed in the line of duty.

But before he was in police custody, authorities said he fled the state. He was arrested in October in Branson, Mo., after a five-month run from authorities.

Woodridge Police Chief Ken Boehm said after Webb’s guilty plea last month that the department can now move on in the wake of one of its officers admitting guilt, and called Webb’s crime a “shameful act.”

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Former San Francisco California Transit Cop Johannes Mehserle To Be Released From Prison After Less Than 1 Year – Murdered Unarmed Man

June 12, 2011

LOS ANGELES, CALIFORNIA – A former transit police officer convicted last year in the shooting death of an unarmed man on an Oakland, California, train platform will be freed from prison early Monday morning, according to a court order.

Johannes Mehserle was sentenced to two years in prison for the involuntary manslaughter conviction, but California law gives him one day of good conduct credit for each of the 365 days he’s already served behind bars, Los Angeles Superior Court Judge Robert Perry said in an order signed Friday.

Mehserle, a Bay Area Rapid Transit police officer when the shooting occurred, said at the trial that he intended to draw and fire his Taser rather than his gun when he fatally wounded 22-year-old Oscar Grant on New Years Day 2009.

Mehserle, who has been behind bars since a Los Angeles jury found him guilty on July 8, 2010, will be free to walk out of prison just after midnight Sunday, Perry said.

Violent protests erupted in Oakland last November when Perry sentenced Mehserle to just two years in prison, which meant he would possibly be released after another seven months.

At least 150 people were arrested during the protests, which Oakland Police Chief Anthony Batts described at the time as “tearing up the city.”

Grant’s mother, Wanda Johnson, had asked the judge to sentence Mehserle to the maximum 14 years in prison. She and four other family members who spoke at the sentencing hearing last year called him “a murderer.”

The jury acquitted him of the more serious charges of second-degree murder and voluntary manslaughter.

Although his defense attorney argued for probation, Mehserle told Perry before sentencing that he would be willing to go to prison if the sentence made his city and family safer.

“I shot a man,” he said. “I killed a man. It should not have happened.”

A conviction for involuntary manslaughter normally carries a four-year sentence, but the judge had the option of adding an “enhancement” that could have made the sentence 14 years because a firearm was used in commission of a crime.

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Former West Seneca New York Police Officer Sean P. Kelley Gets A Tiny Slap On The Wrist In Federal Court After Attacking Man In A Bar – Background Includes Domestic Abuse

April 6, 2011

WEST SENECA, NEW YORK – A former West Seneca police officer was sentenced in federal court Tuesday for exploding in anger and attacking a young man who made a crude remark in a tavern last year.

U.S. District Judge Richard J. Arcara sentenced Sean P. Kelley to the six months he has already served in jail since his arrest. He also put him on supervised release for a year, including six months of home confinement.

The judge also ordered Kelley to attend a three-week treatment program in Bradford, Pa., for people with anger-management and alcohol-abuse problems.

“We think it’s a fair sentence. Sean realizes he has very serious problems that he needs to deal with,” said attorney Rodney O. Personius, who represented Kelley with co-counsel Brian M. Melber.

Kelley, who resigned from his job last May after he became the subject of an FBI civil rights investigation, apologized in court for his actions. He will be sentenced again Wednesday in state court in connection with an unrelated conviction for attempted assault.

Kelley, 31, has been in jail since last September, when Buffalo police arrested him after a disturbance in a South Buffalo tavern. That incident led to the attempted-assault conviction.

Speaking in federal court, Assistant U.S. Attorney Trini E. Ross asked Arcara to send Kelley to prison for a year, which would be the maximum sentence for a misdemeanor conviction.

Ross said that Kelley’s angry outbursts have harmed other people — including family members — for years and argued that he now must face the consequences of his actions.

She noted that he was disciplined for bad conduct eight times since his appointment as an officer in 2005.

Two of those disciplinary actions involved domestic abuse, Ross noted.

Arcara agreed that Kelley’s problems with drinking and rage have hurt others, but the judge said the former patrolman seems to be making a sincere effort to deal with his problems.

“I have come to the realization that I need help,” Kelley said, bursting into tears as he read an apology to the court.

Last May, Kelley resigned from his $70,000-a-year job with the West Seneca police. The resignation followed a March 12 off-duty incident in which witnesses said Kelly choked and assaulted a patron at Mackie’s Countryside Inn on Clinton Street in West Seneca.

Authorities said Kelley led the patron outside and attacked him after the patron made, and apologized for, a vulgar remark aimed at Kelley and his wife.

Before attacking the man, according to court papers, Kelley used his cell phone to call a police dispatcher on the dispatcher’s personal cell phone. Kelley then asked for officers to be sent to the bar to help remove what he claimed was an unruly customer.

Two officers responded to the bar call, but they were not accused of assisting Kelley in the assault of the patron.

FBI agents and the U.S. Attorney’s Office charged Kelley with a felony civil rights crime in July. They also charged him with illegally using a police computer to find information about the young man he had attacked at Mackie’s.

Kelley was released on bail weeks after the federal arrest, but he was jailed again Sept. 22, when Buffalo officers arrested him on state charges after he scuffled with them in a South Buffalo bar.

State Supreme Court Justice Penny M. Wolfgang will sentence Kelley on Wednesday. He pleaded guilty to felony attempted assault and could face up to four years.

“We will ask [Justice] Wolfgang to consider probation, but she is not bound in any way by what Judge Arcara did,” Personius said.

In a letter to the judge, one of Kelley’s brothers said Kelley had problems with his temper for many years but always got off with “a slap on the wrist.”

Kelley repeatedly got into trouble during his five-year police career. According to law enforcement officials in West Seneca, political connections enabled Kelley to get hired as a police officer in early 2005.

Detectives who conducted a background check on Kelley said they did not think he was suitable for police work, but he was hired anyway, The Buffalo News reported last October.

After he was hired, federal prosecutors said he was disciplined repeatedly — including four suspensions without pay for a total of 57 days — after a series of incidents involving violent conduct, sick-time abuse and drinking.

Ross said Police Chief Edward F. Gehen was “at his wits’ end” over Kelley’s conduct last year. She said the chief asked FBI agents to investigate Kelley because he was concerned that he might hurt someone.

Arcara’s court was packed with supportive friends and family members of Kelley, including Monsignor David M. Gallivan, pastor of Holy Cross Catholic Church on Buffalo’s West Side.

“I’ve spent a lot of time talking to Sean [since his arrests], and I believe he is very sincere about trying to address his problems,” Gallivan said after the sentencing. “He knows about all the pain he has caused, and he knows he has a lifetime to repay people for what he did.”

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Former Cobb County Georgia Police Officer Kenneth Reda Gets A Tiny Slap On The Wrist After Killing Fellow SWAT Team Officer

January 28, 2011

COBB COUNTY, GEORGIA – A former Cobb County SWAT officer was sentenced to four years in prison on Thursday for lying about a boating accident on Lake Allattoona last spring that left his friend and fellow SWAT Officer Brent Stephens dead.

The judge also gave Kenneth Reda 11 years of probation. Channel 2 Action News reporter Ross Cavitt was at the courthouse during the sentencing hearing.

Reda pleaded guilty earlier this month to second-degree homicide by vessel, among other charges.

Prosecutors said he lied and covered up events of the April 2010 boating accident.

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