Less than 48 hours after speaking out against Bloomfield, N.J. councilman Carlos Bernard, acting Chief of Police James Behre has been placed on paid leave.
During a council meeting on Monday, Behre “publicly blasted” Bernard, claiming that Bernard had twice sought favors on behalf of Hispanic police officers and called township officers on their cell phones to divert patrol assignments.
Bernard had even allegedly asked Behre “to fix a parking ticket.”
Bernard was notably absent from Monday’s council meeting and has ignored multiple requests for comment.
Behre, 50, said that on Wednesday he received a letter in which he was relieved of his duties, effective immediately. He said that he’s been scheduled for a “fitness of duty evaluation” with a doctor on March 3.
Although Mayor Michael Venezia confirmed that Behre has indeed been placed on paid leave, he said that the actions were taken due to concerns over Behre’s health rather than, as Behre claimed, because of his controversial comments.
“He’s still being paid,” said Venezia. He noted that Behre had lost ten pounds due to stress and that his children ask “why Daddy is angry every night.”
“We felt that we needed to take precautions,” Venezia explained. He has maintained that Behre’s leave is unrelated to his speaking out publicly against Bernard.
Bernard represents the Third Ward and had apparently asked Behre to “trade favors” to ensure Behre’s appointment as permanent chief.
Behre claims that Bernard asked to promote a Hispanic officer to detective, despite the fact that the officer had not yet served the three-year term required for such a promotion. Bernard promised Behre that doing so would “make all your problems go away.”
Behre, a 27-year veteran of the Bloomfield Police Department, labeled Bernard’s actions as “political interference” and demanded that an investigation be conducted by the state attorney general’s office.
“In my 27 years I never felt the need to come up here to complain before the council,” said Behre, who has referred to Bernard’s “non-stop barrage” of requests as “harassment” and as “rising to criminal” levels.
“I find it interesting that when a chief of police tries to protect his department, instead of taking my concerns seriously and [forwarding] them to the attorney general’s office, they relieve me of my duties,” Behre said when he was reached by phone.
Photo Source: Essex News Daily