Bloomfield, New Jersey’s Councilman Carlos Bernard asked acting police chief James Behre “to fix a parking ticket” and to favor Hispanic officers for promotions in two separate instances — all to “solidify” Behre’s position to become the permanent chief of the 124-member department, Behre said during the public comments section at the meeting.
Behre demanded that the mayor and township administrator call for an investigation by the state Attorney General’s office.
“No one owns the chief’s position. It’s not for sale,” Behre said.
In one instance, Behre recounted, the councilman asked for a Hispanic officer to be made detective “and follows up with this: this will solidify your position as chief and your problems will go away.”
“He’s come into my office and used the word ‘we’ to imply that he’s there on behalf of the whole council,” Behre said.
In the video below, acting Police Chief Behre stands up to the town council and Mayor regarding political interference. This video is an excerpt from the Town Council meeting on February 10, 2014. After the meeting, Behre was placed on is placed on leave pending fitness of duty evaluation.
Behre, 50, said that he received a letter today from Township Administrator Ted Ehrenburg relieving Behre of his duties, effective immediately. Behre said he’s been scheduled for a “fitness of duty evaluation” with a doctor on March 3.
Mayor Michael Venezia confirmed that Behre was placed on paid leave today but said it was due to concerns over Behre’s health and not due to his comments regarding Councilman Carlos Bernard.
“He’s still being paid. We felt that we needed to take precautions,” Venezia said. During Behre’s comments on Monday, the acting chief claimed he had lost 10 pounds due to stress caused by the turmoil within the police department and that his children ask “why daddy is angry every night,” the mayor noted.
Behre, a 27-year veteran of the Bloomfield Police Department, said he’s convinced he was placed on leave as a direct result of speaking out against Bernard’s meddling in police affairs.
“That’s exactly it,” Behre said when reached by phone. “They can do what they want but I find it interesting that when a chief of police tries to protect his department, instead of taking my concerns seriously and forward them up to the Attorney General’s Office, they relieve me of my duties.”