Regina Tasca is a police officer in a small New Jersey town who crossed the ‘blue line,’ and has been suspended for over a year.
Her crime: she defended a disabled citizen from police brutality. Officer Tasca and her attorney, Cathy Elston, speak about this incident in this interview (39:12).
Dave Gahary, a former submariner in the U.S. Navy, is the host of AFP’s ‘Underground Interview’ series.
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Hero Cop Gets Suspended For Protecting Disabled Resident From Police Beating
11-year veteran ‘crossed the blue line’; forced to turn over badge, service weapon and ID
By Dave Gahary
Bogota, N.J. – This cozy northern New Jersey town of less than one-square-mile is the scene of a vicious court battle pitting this borough’s first female police officer against a corrupt political machine more interested in covering up crimes against its citizenry than protecting and serving.
This case has national implications as well, as the proliferation of squad car dashboard cameras, or ‘dash cams’ and cell phone cameras are shining an unflattering light on police brutality across the country’s police forces. The marked increase in filming of these incidents due to improved technology has brought the beatings directly to Americans’ computers, tablets and cell phones and may point to a trend, although recent statistics claim to show no rise in police brutality in the United States.
Bogota police officer Regina Tasca has been on the force for over 11 years and loves her job in this town of around 8,000 residents. She’s dedicated to protecting and serving the citizens of her town and regularly puts their interests before those of her department and the internal politics that accompany it. She’s also an Emergency Medical Technician for over 28 years on the volunteer ambulance corps, and was recently certified in dealing with emotionally-disturbed persons.
So when a call came in on April 29, 2011, from a Bogota resident, asking for help with her emotionally-disturbed 22-year-old son, Tasca was confident it would be a routine dispatch. As she told this writer, “I know how to handle these individuals.”
On April 20, 2012, AMERICAN FREE PRESS conducted an exclusive one-hour interview with Officer Tasca and her attorney Catherine Elston. Elston was a former New York City and N.J. cop for around eight years before becoming an attorney.
“I’m an attorney for a little over 20 years and I was the municipal prosecutor in Bogota for over 10 years,” said Elston. Bogota’s police force is comprised of a total of 18 members.
AFP asked Officer Tasca how the event unfolded.
“Councilwoman Sharp had called the Bogota police department in a request to have her son (Kyle) transported to one of the regional hospitals. It was a simple transport. She wanted him to be evaluated because he is an emotionally-disturbed individual. I went up to the scene. Bogota is a small department; there’s only two of us on the road and my partner was on the desk,” detailed Tasca.
“My partner called Ridgefield Park (a neighboring town) to back me up. We pretty much both arrive on the scene. I get out of my patrol car. The mother comes out, the father comes out, and the mother tells Kyle ‘You’re gonna go to the hospital, get evaluated.’ And he looks at me and says, ‘Regina, why is there another police department here?’ And I told him ‘It’s protocol that another police officer is here as a back-up.’ He says, ‘But I don’t understand why there’s another police department here.’
“He obviously didn’t want to go to the hospital. And with that he says, ‘I’m not goin’,’ and starts to walk back towards his house. With that, Sergeant Thibault takes the kid down to the ground. I’m having a normal conversation with this kid; I have everything under control. And then Sergeant Rella comes flying out of his detective car, jumps on top of the kid, and starts pounding him in the head. I was completely in shock, like ‘Oh my God, I can’t believe this is happening.’
“There’s a lot of yelling and screaming. The mother’s screaming, ‘Get off my son, stop punching my son!’ Kyle’s screaming, ‘You’re punching me, why are you punching me?!’
“I’m trying to pry Sergeant Rella off of the kid because they’re beating him for no apparent reason. He wasn’t violent, he wasn’t attacking them, he didn’t charge them, nothing. We were having this conversation. Sergeant Rella’s yelling at me, ‘What are you doing?!’ I said, ‘What am I doing?! I don’t know how you guys handle your calls in Ridgefield Park, but here in Bogota, this is not how I handle them.’
“As I was trying to yank him off, he told me I was a disgrace to the police department ‘cause I was stopping him,” accompanied by several curse words. As the mother’s screaming for the cops to get off her son, he actually says, ‘Stand back, because you’ll be next.’”
Then the ambulance arrives on scene. The whole incident lasted only a few seconds.
Attorney Elston added:
“In these small towns in New Jersey, they have what’s called ‘mutual aid’ or ‘mutual assistance.’ And in this case Ridgefield Park was the back-up for Regina. When you’re called in for ‘mutual aid’ and ‘mutual assistance’ you’re not the one in charge of the call, it’s the town that you’re in, that’s the department who’s in charge of the call.
“Without warning to Regina, or any communication to Regina, as to ‘What do you wanna do,’ or ‘What do you wanna do here,’ or, ‘What should we do here,’ without any warning to the kid, without yelling out to the kid to stop, he just bolted up the lawn and grabbed the kid and took him down to the ground.
“So, it went against ‘mutual aid’ and ‘mutual assistance,’ and there was no communication from him with Regina or anybody at the scene prior to him doing that. And also, [Thibault] was there I think 30-seconds…and he immediately called for back-up.”
Soon after, the Chief of Police arrived accompanied by the Internal Affairs officer.
Elston explained what happened next.
“Nobody ever asked Regina at the scene what happened. Nobody made any effort to talk to their own officer about what happened at the scene before she left to go to the hospital with Kyle. The Ridgefield Park officers were never asked, in an interview or a sworn statement, what happened.”
A few days after the incident, Tasca was called into her chief’s office. Thinking she would finally be asked to give a statement, she was shocked at what was said to her.
“He says, ‘You need to turn over your service weapon, your badge and your ID. You’re suspended immediately and we need to send you for a psychological evaluation.’”
“It crushed me. I’m a police officer for so long, I love the job, I love the residents, it’s what I enjoy to do,” lamented Tasca.
Tasca’s been suspended for over a year now, drawing her $110,000 annual salary with full benefits.
AFP asked Elston what she wants for her client.
“We’re looking for a total dismissal of the disciplinary charges; they’re totally baseless and need to be dismissed. The people who were supposed to be investigated were never investigated,” said Elston.
Tasca’s not going to stop at getting her job back.
“Regina has a separate civil trial attorney who will be representing her on a civil suit against Bogota and Ridgefield Park,” explained Elston.