June 19, 2007
SGT. THOMAS SPRINGS, APPELLANT,
NEW JERSEY TRANSIT POLICE DEPARTMENT, NEW JERSEY TRANSIT CORPORATION, RESPONDENT.
On appeal from a Final Administrative Agency Decision, New Jersey Transit Corporation, IAU Nos. 02-040; 02-041;02-042.
NOT FOR PUBLICATION WITHOUT THE APPROVAL OF THE APPELLATE DIVISION
Argued April 25, 2007
Before Judges Wefing and Yannotti.
On September 27, 2004, Joseph C. Bober, Chief of Police for the NJ Transit Police Department issued three final determinations sustaining various disciplinary charges against Thomas Springs, a sergeant in the NJ Transit Police Department, and imposing discipline upon him. Sergeant Springs has appealed from those final determinations. After reviewing the record in light of the contentions advanced on appeal, we affirm.
New Jersey Transit Corporation was created by the Legislature in 1979. N.J.S.A. 27:25-1 to -34. N.J.S.A. 27:25-15.1 created a New Jersey Transit Police Department having "police and security responsibilities over all locations and services owned, operated or managed" by Transit. One such location is Penn Station in Newark. Sergeant Springs was the Station Supervisor in Penn Station.
Four sets of disciplinary charges were proffered against Sergeant Springs, based upon incidents alleged to have occurred on October 24, 2002; November 2, 2002; and November 23, 2002. According to the first charge, Springs failed to direct that officers under his direct supervision stand their posts as a search was conducted for the individual who had stolen a vendor's tip jar; as a result, posts were unmanned for some period of time. This was alleged to be a violation of General Order 3.11, Police Sergeant Duties and Responsibilities.
The second charge alleged that Springs had, on November 2, 2002, incorrectly completed a Criminal Disposition Report following an arrest and, despite having been instructed how to correct the errors, again submitted a Criminal Disposition Report that was incorrectly completed. This was alleged to be a violation of New Jersey Transit Police Patrol Guide Rules and Regulations 7.12, Unsatisfactory Performance.
According to the third charge, Springs again improperly filled out a Criminal Disposition Report on November 23, 2002, following an officer's arrest of a suspect. As with the second charge, New Jersey Transit Police Patrol Guide Rules and Regulations 7.12 was cited.
The fourth charge again involved November 2, 2002, when a disturbance occurred on the property of the Hilton hotel across the street from Penn Station. New Jersey Transit police rendered assistance to the members of the Newark Police Department who responded to the scene. Springs was charged with violating New Jersey Transit Police Patrol Guide Rules and Regulations 7.12, Unsatisfactory Performance, 7.13, Insubordination, and 6.2, Searches and Seizures. He was also charged with violating General Order 3.11, Police Sergeant Duties and Responsibilities, and General Order 8.2, Impound Towed Vehicles.
The hearing officer conducted hearings on eight separate dates. Thereafter, he filed his report with Chief Bober, setting forth his findings that all charges had been sustained with the exception of the first charge relating to the incident of October 24, 2002. According to the hearing officer, Springs was guilty of three incidents of unsatisfactory performance, one incident of insubordination, a violation of the general order dealing with impounded/towed vehicles and a violation of the department's rule governing search and seizure operations.
Chief Bober in due course accepted the report of the hearing officer and assessed separate penalties on each sustained charge. For the charge of insubordination, he suspended Springs for ten days and for the charge relating to the towed vehicle, he suspended Springs for two days. For the three charges of unsatisfactory performance, he suspended Springs for separate periods: one three days, one six days and one ten days. Finally, for the search and seizure violation, he suspended Springs for two days. The total suspension was for a period of thirty-three days.
Both parties have filed extensive briefs with this court. Springs contends, in essence, that the determinations are not supported by the record, that the penalties assessed were excessive and that the findings and penalties must be set aside both under the New Jersey constitution and the federal constitution.
We have reviewed the record, and we have carefully considered appellant's arguments, and we are satisfied that Chief Bober's decisions are supported by sufficient credible evidence in the record as whole. R. 2:11-3(e)(1)(D). The argument that the penalties assessed were excessive does not contain sufficient merit to warrant discussion in a written opinion for it would have no precedential value. R. 2:11-3(e)(1)(E).
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