Police investigate each other GPS monitoring results in five suspensions, 13 reprimands

Police investigate each other
GPS monitoring results in five suspensions, 13


August 20, 2006  Hoboken Reporter

After a 14-month investigation led by Hoboken's internal affairs unit, 13 of the city's 25 police officers who were assigned to a 12-to-8 a.m. shift were found not to have been patrolling their beats at certain times, and given suspensions recently.

Since 2005, Internal Affairs has used Global Positioning System (GPS) in patrol cars to track how often each car moves during a shift. The GPS devices were public knowledge throughout the department, according to Hoboken Police Chief Dr. Carmen LaBruno.

Rather than patrolling the streets of their assigned area, certain cruisers remained idle for unnecessarily long periods of time, LaBruno said.

Of the 13 officers disciplined, five received a three-day suspension and an additional five-day work period without pay. Another five officers were ordered to work without pay for a period of one to three days. Also, three sergeants were issued written reprimands for their lack of supervision.

According to LaBruno, each of the officers accepted full responsibility for their actions, which he believes to be an outgrowth of the behavior of their former supervisor Police Captain Karen Dimonde. The city's first female captain resigned July 1 after being brought up on several charges that included failure to report into work and refusal to patrol the streets.

LaBruno described the officers' actions as "an anomaly in their careers" which he hoped would not detract the public's attention from the service and hard work performed by the majority of Hoboken's police.

The union responds

Hoboken Policemen's Benevolent Association (PBA) President Det. Vince Lombardi said last week that he considered the department's response to be unwarranted and excessive.

"The patrolman's job is psychologically and physically demanding enough, not to mention the danger involved," Lombardi said. "Now they have to worry about literally having every moment of every minute of their shift being tracked. That just adds more stress that isn't needed."

Having spent nine years as a patrolman on the midnight shift, Lombardi fears the added stress will be detrimental to the officers' ability to patrol effectively.

"They're so worried about being disciplined for stopping for 10 or 15 minutes to stretch their legs that they're over aggressively patrolling," said Lombardi.

According to Lombardi, an additional consequence to what he calls "aggressive patrolling" is that 50 to 60 miles are being put on a cruiser during one shift instead of 35 to 40 miles. This costs the city money in gas and wear-and-tear on the vehicles.

In response to Lombardi, the chief said that the discipline was not a result of a couple of 10 to 15-minute coffee breaks, but rather police cruisers being idle for extended periods of time that could not be justified by the officers.

"That's what they're paid to do," LaBruno said. "To constantly drive."

He said that if they stop to monitor suspicious activity, they notify their commander.

He warned that if any of the 13 officers were to commit a future violation of a similar nature, the department would move for their dismissal.

GPS and the future of policing in Hoboken

The Global Positioning System, or GPS, was created by the U.S. Department of Defense and originally intended for military applications. In the 1980s, however, the technology was made available to civilians.

The navigation system is comprised of a network of 24 satellites that are powered by solar energy and are equipped with rocket boosters to keep them flying in the right path as they orbit the earth at approximately 7,000 miles per hour.

The satellites circle the planet twice a day, transmitting signal information back to receivers on the ground. Hoboken's Police Superior Officers Association President, Sergeant Ken Ferrante, described two applications for GPS at the department. The first is as a tool for dispatching a particular officer who is in the area of a crime. The second is the accountability aspect. GPS can also be used as a defense in false allegations made against cops by private citizens. 

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