Tuesday, September 27, 2005

Trooper says police avoiding chases to avoid profiling charges

Associated Press:

While the state police are being praised for efforts to end racial profiling, one trooper says it comes at a cost: The police are being discouraged from chases "even when the wrongdoers were committing a violation in front of a state trooper."

In his whistle-blower lawsuit, Sgt. Richard Gacina said state police officials have tried to keep police from performing parts of their job out of fear of racial profiling accusations.

"Absolutely untrue," state police spokesman Capt. Al Della Fave told The Bergen Record for Friday's editions.

"We're not discouraging pursuits," he said. "We're monitoring them more closely. We have specific supervisors identified to make decision on whether pursuits should continue or cease based, plain and simple, on the danger to the motoring public."

Gacina, who filed the lawsuit last spring, was disciplined, then exonerated of internal charges that he violated procedures in three pursuits in 2003.

He claims that he has been the subject of petty abuse since then, denied promotion opportunities and has had his mental condition questioned.

His lawyer said that once in 2003, Gacina responded to a call for help from a local police force by joining a chase and was investigated for doing so. "If that's not de-policing, I don't know what is," Reimer said.

State police have received glowing reviews from federal monitors overseeing reforms in the department as it tries to recover from a past in which black and Hispanic drivers were often pulled over or searched because of their race -- a practice known as racial profiling.

The state Attorney General's Office has not answered to the claims in the lawsuit, though it has filed a motion for it to be dismissed. Gacina's lawyer and others who have represented troopers in claims against the state say the delay is a stall tactic.

"Their defense is simply to delay. There is no answer yet. They haven't denied anything," Reimer said.

Peter Aseltine, a spokesman for the Attorney General's Office, said he would not comment because the matter is in litigation.

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