Monday, March 16, 2015
We're Supposed To Be Peace Officers: Good Cop Who Stopped Brutality and Got Fired For Her Trouble Just Won Her Job Back
Pigs Fly Dept: Regina Tasca, an actual, humane, compassionate, common sense police officer in New Jersey - and the only female and openly gay one in her department - just won back her job after a judge invalidated her 2012 firing due to the scummy behavior of police and town officials who orchestrated it. A 20-year veteran of law enforcement who had served in Bogota for 11 years, higher-ups had declared Tasca "unfit for duty" after she fought off fellow officers brutally beating a disturbed young man whose family had called, improbably, for help. Many believed she was targeted for "crossing the blue line" of police impunity. Damn straight, says Tasca: "I protected that kid - I did what I’m supposed to do.”
The April 2011 incident, captured on harrowing video, began when Kyle Sharp's parents called police asking for help to get their distraught son to the hospital. On camera, Tasca, who had just completed training on dealing with cases involving mental health, can be heard sensibly asking dispatch to bring in an ambulance without lights or siren. She then approaches Kyle to ask him about going to the hospital. As Kyle balks and begins to walk away, two cops from a neighboring town arrive, tackle him, and start punching him as he flails on the ground. Kyle's horrified mother, a former City Council member, is heard shrieking at police, "Why are you punching him?! Get off my son!"; his father likewise protests, to which one cop yells, “As soon as I get off him I’ll get to you”; both cops, meanwhile, continue to wrestle with Kyle while screaming "Shut up! Back up!" Tasca can be seen struggling to pull the cops off Kyle. Once they're finally off him, she's heard comforting him with, "You're okay, it's okay."
Following the incident, Tasca, who had earlier filed several, never-addressed harrassment complaints within the department, was made to undergo a sketchy psychological analysis that found her "unfit for duty," and was terminated. She was also slapped with over 20 administrative and departmental charges, and was accused of failing to help her partner during an earlier incident in which he brutally took down a small, young intoxicated woman. Tasca insisted she'd done nothing wrong, and sued. In subsequent hearings, both the officer who attacked Kyle and Tasca's superior admitted to violating protocol and repeatedly lying in their reports. Tasca argued she "intervened to prevent excessive force against a kid who was the subject of a medical call, not a criminal suspect.” Testimony also revealed clear conflict of interest by the town's then-mayor and a councilman involved in Tasca's termination - one key reason a Superior Court judge last week ruled the town must reinstate her and give her back pay.
Many observers argued Tasca had been brought down "for the unforgivable offense of 'crossing the blue line' by taking the side of a Mundane being attacked by a member of the Brotherhood." That, and oh yeah: Being a woman, and a lesbian, and someone audacious enough to describe herself as "a peace officer" whose job is "to help make sure that people are safe, and that they don’t have a reason to fear the police – that we treat them like human beings." As a veteran cop, she adds, she's been troubled in recent years by the same kinds of changes enraging much of the country: "What we're seeing is a lot of kids who are given power and immediately begin to abuse it...They get a badge and a gun and they think they're gods, or at least they're entitled to treat people like dirt. I see them as people, and insist on treating them like I'd want to be treated." Sounds pretty basic; how dispiriting she's such an exception to the savage rule. Warning: Video disturbing.