Congratulations to Officer Thalia Mendoza whose 6 month suspension was overturned today by the Appellate Division. Officer Mendoza was involved in a domestic on the day of the 2010 Super Bowl which led to criminal charges which were eventually dismissed. Once the criminal charges were dismissed, 4 months after the incident, the County realized their case was falling apart and brought a second set of charges, charging Mendoza with not filing a written report with Internal Affairs within 24 hours of the incident.
The charges were heard by the Office of Administrative Law. Judge Michael Antoniewicz determined that Officer Mendoza was not guilty of the charges levied against her regarding the domestic, was acting in self-defense, and dismissed same. However, after listening to Sgt. Artiece Lambos testify falsely that a report had to be made in writing, and not being presented with any evidence to the contrary. Judge Antoniewicz found Mendoza guilty of not filing a written report but noted that she kept Internal Affairs apprised of everything that was occurring with her case and was told by Sgt. Ricardo Aviles that he did not need anything further from her. Her penalty was a six month suspension.
Officer Mendoza appealed the decision to the Appellate Division and needed nothing more than the Hudson County Rules & Regulation to win her case.
The Hudson County Rules & Regulations define "report" as:
Report - A written or oral communication that relates to [HCDOC] matter.
The Rules & Regulations which Mendoza was charged with violating, required an officer to:
"Report any arrest, or receipt of any summons received from a law enforcement agency or court, and subsequent disposition, including conviction, to the Internal Affairs Unit on or by the next scheduled work day following the disposition, but no later than (24) hours after the disposition or receiving the summons.
Clearly, there is no requirement to file a "written" report.
Officer Mendoza pointed out in her brief that in 2004, then Internal Affairs Investigator Lenore Levine testified before the Office of Administrative Law in Morris v. Hudson County, CSV9530-04, that the officers only responsibility is to keep Internal Affairs informed of what was occurring and that could be accomplished by either submitting copies of documents from the Courts, submitting a written report or simply calling Internal Affairs. Any of those methods were acceptable.
This is yet another eye sore for the County as they have spent 3 years fighting an issue that was clearly defined in its Rules & Regulations. They have incurred attorney's fees to fight this matter both in the Office of Administrative Law and in the Appellate Division. This loss also makes them responsible for 6 months of back pay to Officer Mendoza as well as the costs of her attorney's fees.
Both Sgt. Lambos and Sgt. Aviles were in Internal Affairs in 2004 when then Investigator Lenore Levine testified as to the proper reporting requirements. Both Sergeants, as well as those above them are responsible to be fully familiar with the Rules & Regulations. At a minimum, the Legal Department should have investigated the matter before paying the law firm of Chasan Leyner to defend the matter.