Madison police Officer Anthony Maccario noticed during the summer of 2010 that fellow Officer Anthony Kaspereen was losing weight.
The patrolmen saw each other every day when their shifts changed and Maccario thought Kaspereen looked sick.
"He did lose a lot of weight," Maccario stated in a March deposition. "I just attributed it to a hell of a workout during some really hot months. You know, I mean, he didn't look well, let's put it that way."
The workout consisted of Kaspereen patrolling Madison by foot for nine hours at a time, an assignment he first was given over the Fourth of July holiday.
The patrol is at the center of a lawsuit filed by Kaspereen, who has since retired, against the borough and Police Chief John Trevena.
Kaspereen's complaint alleges the assignment was "punishment detail" that was partly responsible for him being hospitalized for dehydration and caused him to suffer post-traumatic stress disorder.
The lawsuit alleges the assignment was given as punishment for using his sick days for sinus problems, and the lawsuit says the sinus condition was a disability and Kaspereen was being discriminated against for his disability.
The borough says the patrol was part of a traditional post and was not given as punishment. David Pack, attorney for the borough and Trevena, said Monday they are "going to try to mediate the case." Pack declined to comment further.
Maccario, the president of the police union, gave an account of his observations and his involvement in the matter in a deposition on March 26. He provided the deposition at the Morristown law office of Kaspereen's attorney, Kevin Barber, of Niedweske Barber Hager.
Maccario saw Kaspereen's assignment as an inappropriate disciplinary action and filed his first grievance in his seven years as PBA president on Kaspereen's behalf, according to a transcript of the proceeding.
During the deposition, Barber showed Maccario a July 2 email sent to Madison police squad sergeants outlining the terms of Kaspereen's assignment, which included instructions that officers were not to assist Kaspereen and that, if additional manpower was needed, police from other towns should be called instead of Kaspereen, according to the transcript.
Maccario told Barber he hadn't seen the email prior to his deposition and was surprised to see the instructions in writing.
According to the transcript, the July 2 email stated at various points:
- On night tour Patrolman Kaspereen is to walk out to the downtown area and conduct foot patrols from 1900 hours until 0400 hours (7 p.m. to 4 a.m.)
- Chief Trevena orders that Kaspereen is not to be issued a patrol car under any circumstances.
- Chief Trevena does not want anyone assisting, distracting or interfering with Patrolman Kaspereen during his assigned post and duties or they will be disciplined as well.
- Chief Trevena also states if additional manpower is needed for a response to call for mutual aid.
- Patrolman Kaspereen is not to be utilized for any response nor is he to be given a patrol vehicle during the course of his assignment.
- Any request by Patrolman Kaspereen to meet with the Chief is already denied.
- Chief Trevena states this matter is not to be a topic of discussion among anyone in the police department.
It wasn't clear from the transcript who sent the email. Messages left with Barber were not returned and attempts to reach Maccario were not successful. Pack said Monday he had no comment on the deposition.
In court documents, the borough denied Kaspereen didn't have a vehicle support.
In his deposition, Maccario said the department does have what is called the "Town Man" post, which involves walking the town and helping pedestrians cross the street. It is usually performed by a junior officer, but the assignment given to Kaspereen was unlike anything he had seen.
In particular, Maccario said it was "unbelievable" the chief would order officers not to assist another officer and agreed when Barber asked if that posed a danger to Kaspereen, other officers and Madison residents. He also agreed with Barber that it was "an illegal order."
Barber asked, "As you read it now, what's your reaction to it?"
"It's unbelievable," Maccario said. "I can't imagine that a chief would actually order men to do that, much less put it in writing."
Regarding the instruction to call for mutual aid instead of Kaspereen, Maccario said it was "unprofessional" and "dangerous."
"Basically, that's saying if a citizen of Madison needs help, instead of sending Officer Kaspereen, they're going to call another town who may be, you know, several minutes, 10, 15 minutes away."
Maccario said all of this was happening at a time when there was low morale in the department due to diminished staffing, and a task force recently was disbanded due to insufficient manpower.
Maccario said the assignment took a toll on Kaspereen.
"How would you describe the weight loss, was it significant weight loss?" Barber asked.
"I would say signficant," Maccario said. "He looked like somebody who was sick."
Barber also asked, "From July 2010 through September of 2010, can you explain to me your observations of Kaspereen's physical state, his mental state and his emotional state, how they changed during that time period?"
"Again, I mean you talk about I guess morale, he had no morale," Maccario said. "No one would have morale under those circumstances. The effects of walking for that period of time—shift work is rigorous work enough, let alone having to walk for your entire shift, with that uniform on, with that equipment on, in that extreme heat, even in the evening.
"Plus, I guess the whole mental effects of basically being treated like a criminal in your own police department and being subjected to punishment that one person deems necessary and seems to be not influenced by anyone around him or above him, it's got to be depressing morally and I'm sure that he felt that way. I can't give you any quotes out of Tony's mouth."
Maccario said Kaspereen did sometimes complain of being dizzy. Maccario would tell him to duck into a building to get out of the heat, but it seemed Kaspereen didn't want administration to see he couldn't fulfill the assignment, Maccario said.
"So he did subject his body to, you know, things that he probably shouldn't have. But he did complain of dizziness and he did complain of feeling weak a lot and he said many times, 'I don't know how much longer I could take this.' But, again, I would describe him as being resilient, I guess, you know."
In response to Pack's cross-examination, Maccario said he let Kaspereen dictate how to approach their unsuccessful attempts to resolve the matter by reaching out to the chief and Borough Administrator Ray Codey.
"I tried to do everything according to Tony's belief," Maccario said. "I let him drive this. He's a reasonable guy. He's a very tolerant guy and I think he was pushed beyond the brink. I would have exploded way before this."