A Plainfield, New Jersey police officer, Fernando Sanchez, has been fired for repeatedly having sex in his police cruiser while on duty, according to a report from NJ. Sanchez’s misconduct was uncovered during an investigation into another officer’s conduct with the same woman; specifically, that said officer, Sgt. Samuel Woody, coerced the woman to strip for him while he masturbated in a parking lot.
According to a report from My Central New Jersey, when asked by prosecutors if he’d had sex with the woman while on duty, Sanchez responded, “I don’t honestly think so.” Months later, during the Woody investigation, he changed his story. Police officials noted that Sanchez “frequently” met with “paramours” for sex while on duty.
According to My Central New Jersey, Sgt. Woody was found guilty of second-degree official misconduct and fourth-degree criminal sexual conduct and sentenced to six years in prison, after coercing the woman into stripping for him by arresting her on false burglary and theft charges, and threatening her with five years in jail if she didn’t do as he told her.
Meanwhile, Sanchez was never accused of a crime, but did receive 12 departmental and administrative charges from the Plainfield police department before his firing on September 22, 2014; charges which were upheld by an employment hearing officer. Now, he is disputing his firing, appealing his termination to the Civil Service Commission. Details of Sanchez’s firing are only being revealed publicly now due to his appeal to termination to the state Civil Service Commission, which, in October, made its final decision on the matter, siding with the city.
Details of police internal investigations are confidential, and the full details of Sanchez’s actions and firing are unknown; however, Civil Service proceedings are public, and Sanchez has opened his actions up to public scrutiny with his filing.
According to his former attorney, Michael J. Mitzner of Watchung, Sanchez – who earned over $85,000 a year – is appealing the commission’s decision, stating that he should have been suspended rather than terminated, as he stopped having sex on duty after investigators found out about it. He also requested back-pay for the months he was suspended before his termination.
Administrative law judge Judge Leslie Z. Celentano held that his arguments were “absurd” and “border on ludicrous;” frankly, she was being generous, and the city agreed.
“[His actions show] a lack of respect for the public, a disregard for the duties of a police officer, and lack of consideration for the civilian involved. Officer Sanchez thought so little of his badge that he found it acceptable to have sex in public while on duty.”
“An officer who engages in such conduct clearly cannot be relied upon to exercise the necessary tact, restraint, and good judgment in his relationships with the public and, as a result, should not be entrusted with the solemn responsibility to represent law and order in the community.”
The Civil Service Commission held his actions to be “so egregious” that his prior, mostly-clean disciplinary record, should not be considered, and Judge Celentano noted in her decision that police officers are fired for lesser offenses, including sleeping on duty.
“Certainly, if a police officer should be removed for sleeping in a police vehicle while on duty, logic dictates that a police officer must be removed for having sexual relations in a police vehicle while on duty.”
She added that any penalty short of termination would be “contrary to the public interest,” and that Sanchez failed “to comprehend the gravity of his actions.”
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