Claims by at least seven Jersey City Police Officers say “political retribution” is at play inside the the Jersey City Police Department. Some even call it a conspiracy.
“You’re either on the right side or the wrong side. If you’re on the right side, you get awarded with assignments, extra overtime details. You’re on the wrong side, you fail to support the current administration, you’re gonna be punished,” said Attorney Gina Mendola Longarzo.
Mayor Steven Fulop took office last year after a decisive win over incumbent Mayor Jerramiah Healy. Healy’s Police Chief, Tom Comey retired shortly after. And Fulop appointed Chief Robert Cowan to lead the department.
But in recent months, claims have been mounting against the chief, the mayor, and the city– claims of intimidation, unfair discipline and demotions, even voter fraud.
“Do you think that politics are trumping public safety?” Officer Erik Infantes said, “Oh without a doubt.”
Infantes and Sgt. Anthony Musante are both veterans of the force. They claim they’re victims of political retaliation.
Infantes and Musante say they were working on high level investigations into terrorism, organized crime and corruption. Butt now both men say they’re off investigations.
Each supported Healy in his last bid for office.
“We had a relationship– so when he ran it was my right to support him and I did,” said Infantes.
The officers say their problems can be traced to an ad from Fulop’s campaign.
In the ad, sitting next to Fulop– a Jersey City police officer, or so it should appear. Infantes and Musante say that even though the man is wearing a real JCPD uniform and badge and he isn’t a cop. They say it is a punishable offense to use an official uniform without authorization from the department. The officers claim then- Police Chief Thomas Comey instructed them to investigate.
According to the claims they filed with the city, the officers identified the man as an employee Of a barber shop. And that the man identified then-deputy Chief Cowan as the officer who gave him the uniform.
Infantes and Musante maintain that as soon as Fulop was elected all of the officers looking into the ad were transferred.
“It was disheartening it was a slap in the face to everything I’ve done for 20 years,” said Musante.
“The mayor is promoting his own political agenda here.. he is rewarding officers who supported him and he’s punishing officers who supported his political opponent,” said Longarzo.
Musante says he knew it was political the moment Cowan summoned him to meet near a cemetery at 3 a.m. Musante alleges Cowan told him you “messed up.”
“That type of a meeting was well out of the ordinary. That’s when I realized that there was more to this than just a simple transfer,” said Musante.
Musante says he was reduced to patrolman on the midnight shift. Infantes says he was reassigned to dispatch. Both say they faced unfair disciplinary charges.
“I went from doing complex investigations to dispatching cars to calls. This job– the Jersey City job– is the only job I ever wanted I didn’t want any other department, any other town,” said Infantes.
Infante’s allegations go further. To identity and voter fraud.
According to his notice of claim, the officer stopped a suspect who gave him conflicting information about his identity. Infantes claims the suspect provided specific details about how he was paid to use fake ids to vote for Fulop in the 2005 Jersey City council election.
We asked the city to provide us with its policies for handling department reassignments, as well as any response to the officers’ claims. A spokesperson would only say: “The city does not comment on pending litigation.”
The city has until the fall to formally respond to the officers’ claims.