NEWARK, N.J. (CN) - Jersey City and its police chief threatened and transferred four police officers after they issued traffic tickets to a politically connected woman, the officers and their unions claim in court.
Jersey City, its Police Chief Robert Cowan and the politically connected Jane Doe are the defendants in Federal Court.
Plaintiffs are the Jersey City Police Superior Officers Association, the Jersey City Police Officers Benevolent Association, Sgt. Anthony Tedesco, Patrolman Michael Rivera, Patrolman Christopher Daliani and Patrolman Christopher Ortega.
Diligent research has failed to identify Doe, the driver of a gray Dodge Durango.
According to the lawsuit, the four officers were on duty in an unmarked police car on Dec. 1, 2012, when the Durango tailgated them, with its brights on.
The officers flipped on their emergency lights and siren and pulled over Durango after it passed them and crossed into the oncoming traffic lane. The driver, Jane Doe, told them she worked for the city and began to "probe" them about their political affiliations, and who they supported, according to the 20-page lawsuit.
"When the plaintiffs were perceived as not being supportive of the team which she identified, she indicated that she would complain to certain individuals holding public office in a manner that would result in adverse consequences for the officers," the complaint states.
The officers claim Doe made it clear to them that "the conduct which they were taking was against the wishes of the city politicians," who would fix the tickets.
"Plaintiffs understood this verbal exchange as an attempt by defendant Jane Doe to intimidate the police officers and attempt to get them to retract the summonses," the complaint states. "Plaintiffs also understood her attempts to identify herself as part of the team of political office holders she identified earlier and that they would be informed of the incident and that they would take care of the tickets which was understood as a threat to plaintiffs and an attempt to get them to retract the summonses or face political retaliation.
Despite these "threats," the plaintiffs say, they refused to tear up the tickets.
The next day, Officer Tedesco says, he was questioned about why he had stopped Doe, and was immediately "transferred to a less prestigious and undesirable post."
All the officers then asked their unions to look into the retaliation. The unions did so, and the other three plaintiffs were transferred too, the officers claim.
"Immediately after the union notified the chief of police that the union was challenging the action in transferring the plaintiffs as a result of having issued summonses, the chief of police indicated that he would be targeting the plaintiffs for further investigation and that he would take serious and significant retaliatory action to ruin plaintiffs if they opposed him," the lawsuit states.
True to his word, Cowan told the officers on Dec. 12 this year that they were under "disciplinary investigations" for issuing Doe the tickets, according to the complaint. "To plaintiffs' knowledge the targeting of plaintiffs is motivated solely due to having issued tickets to Jane Doe, an employee of the city, and for seeking the unions' help in protecting them against political retribution."
The officers claim the city defendants continue to "specifically target them for investigation of minor infractions," to retaliate for their doing their jobs, and for challenging the retaliatory transfers.
They seek an injunction, damages and treble damages for retaliation, lost wages, loss of consortium, loss or reputation, and constitutional violations.
They are represented by Michael Bukosky with Loccke Correia Limsky & Bukosky, of Hackensack.