UNION TOWNSHIP (Union) — A township police officer who had just reached 25 years of service will lose his job after admitting to accepting overtime payments he hadn't earned.

Sgt. Michael Wittevrongel, 47, agreed to forfeit his job after an investigation was launched by the Union County Prosecutor's Office. Wittevrongel will have to repay $6,400 after it was revealed that he had collected overtime in October of last year despite not working the extra shifts, acting Union County Prosecutor Michael A. Monahan said.

According to state pension records, Wittevrongel joined the department in February 2013 and as of September of last year earned an annual salary of $139,678.

In addition to paying the restitution, Wittevrongel will also be sentenced to probation and be permanently barred from public employment, Monahan said. Wittevrongel pleaded guilty to one count of third-degree theft. He is scheduled to be formally sentenced next month.

Jersey City Mayor Steve Fulop and Public Safety Director James Shea recently announced a plan to prohibit officers from working off-duty jobs. According to NJ.com, the plan comes after 11 people, including former Chief Phil Zacche, admitted to taking payments for jobs they didn't work. Shea told NJ.com that the problem was "much more widely spread" than the public knew, which is why the plan was moving forward.

Jersey City Police Officers Benevolent Association president Carmine Disbrow came out against the plan, saying it will put the public in danger by taking cops away from places they are needed.

"You're taking 100 to 150 police officers off the streets" daily, he told NJ.com. "I can't quantify how much crime is deterred by having 150 more officers on the street that are not going to be there if this program is completely dismantled."

The 11 officers committed various violations of department policies including taking money directly from vendors, accepting payments from the city for jobs they didn't do, and giving money to fellow officers for vouching for phony time sheets.

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Contact reporter Adam Hochron at 609-359-5326 or Adam.Hochron@townsquaremedia.com

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