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N.J. police officers fight in Bloomfield

bloomfieldpol072310_optEssex County Prosecutor's Office investigating brawl that sent public servant to hospital

The Essex County Prosecutor's Office is debating whether to conduct an investigation into a knock-down-drag-out brawl that occurred between two Bloomfield police officers Saturday afternoon, spokeswoman Katherine Carter said.

A Union official told The Star-Ledger that officers Officer Bruce Calkin, a 14-year veteran of the department and Officer Fabian Rojas, a 12-year veteran came to fisticuffs when Calkin was emptying a garbage can in the parking lot and allegedly hit Rojas' police cruiser.

The two officers began scraping and in the end, Calkin had to be transported to Mountainside Hospital in Glen Ridge. Rojas, an amateur mixed martial arts fighter, reportedly sustained no significant injuries as a result of the fight.

The rumble came on the heels of the department's police chief being demoted to captain. His demerit allegedly raised tensions within the department between supporters of the chief and those who did not. However, there is no indication that the fight had anything to do with Captain Mark Leonard's demotion, which is also being investigated by the internal affairs unit.

Councilwoman-at-large Patricia Spychala told The Star-Ledger she received an e-mail from the administrator concerning the altercation between Rojas and Calkin, but said she was told to keep it confidential until the prosecutor's office got involved.

Then, she said, she saw news of the fight had been leaked to a local newspaper. "There goes confidentiality out the window," said Spychala.

Mayor Raymond McCarthy denounced the incident, saying public employees must hold themselves to a higher standard.

"It cannot and will not be tolerated," McCarthy told Bloomfield Life. "Plain and simple. We all in public office need to be above reproach, and I don't appreciate (their conduct)."

Detective John Sierchio, state delegate for the Policemen's Benevolent Association Local No. 32, who is known for his open, vocal criticism of the department, said there is no leadership within the department.

"Right now, there's such a lack of discipline," said Sierchio. "It's a total free-for-all in Bloomfield. No one's afraid of the consequences of something like this happening."

Calkin is a member of the Policemen's Benevolent Association Local No. 32. Rojas is a member of a recently formed chapter of the Fraternal Order of Police (FOP) Lodge No. 214.

Captain Leonard was notified by Frederick Carr, Bloomfield's township administrator on June 18 that he must cease using the title of chief. The state Civil Service Commission does not recognize Leonard as chief, Carr wrote in a memo, because the council's resolution to appoint him to the position in 2009 was procedurally incorrect and vetoed by the mayor.

Sierchio and Capt. Christopher Goul filed suit against the township last fall alleging that Goul should've been promoted to chief instead of Leonard because he earned higher marks on the Civil Service Commission test.

FOP Lodge 214 President Anthony Argento tempered his remarks, pending a review of all the facts surrounding the incident between Rojas and Calkin, NJ.com reported.

— ALICIA CRUZ, NEWJERSEYNEWSROOM.COM

 

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