Hackensack cops broke into apartment: 2 fired but 3 win back job
HACKENSACK — Three cops who illegally broke into a city resident’s home will be allowed to get their jobs back. But two of their colleagues are still off the force.
The city charged seven officers with the warrantless entry of the home in December 2016. Two of the top ranking officers retired but the other five were suspended and fired.
The dirty action tainted the cops, forcing then-Bergen County Prosecutor Gurbir Grewal, who now is the state attorney general, to drop criminal charges against 16 suspects, including some hardened criminals, NorthJersey.com reported.
Despite that, an administrative law judge earlier this year said that what the cops had done was “not egregious enough” to deserve termination and she modified the punishment to suspensions.
The city appealed and the Civil Service Commission last month ruled that the city was right to fire Officer Mark Gutierrez and Sgt. Justin de la Bruyere.
While the commission agreed with the judge that officers Victor Vazquez and Rocco Duardo deserved less than termination, the commission increased their 90-day suspension to six months.
Because those six months have long since passed, they will be entitled to back pay and benefits.
Officer Joseph Gonzalez, who had been dispatched to the apartment building but wasn’t with his colleagues when they decided to enter the residence, won his job back outright.
The city can still appeal the decision in Superior Court.
Capt. Vincent Riotto sent the cops to the apartment building on Dec. 28, 2016, for suspected drug activity. The resident had a warrant for a traffic violation.
Surveillance video showed that the cops knocked on the door and waited. Even though the cops did not have a warrant, they went into the apartment and seized property.
The cops later claimed that a neighbor in the building had told them that there was an unattended child in the apartment but officials concluded that the cops lied.
The Civil Service Commission's decision says Gutierrez and De la Bruyere should be fired because they not only entered the apartment without a warrant but they filed a false police report with the unattended child claim.
The commission said these were “extremely serious offenses” that “erode the public trust in the law enforcement community.”
While the two other cops also should have known better, the commission noted that they were following their superior’s orders and that they had gone to the apartment for legitimate police business.
The other top cop on the scene, Lt. Scott Sybel, retired in 2017 and collects a pension of $111,000 a year.
Riotto received a $142,000 retirement package from the city in 2017, NorthJersey.com reported.
Sergio Bichao is deputy digital editor at New Jersey 101.5. Send him news tips: Call 609-359-5348 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.