At its November 21, 2012 meeting, the New Jersey Civil Service Commission signed off on a settlement reached between the Bridgeton Police Department (Cumberland County) and Officer Veronica L. Cheeseman who had been subjected to removal from her position for one violation and a 14-day unpaid suspension for another. The settlement reinstated Cheeseman but called for her to receive a 21-day suspension from duty and required her to complete another one year “working test period,” which is a probationary employment period.
Charges arising out of the same two incidents were also filed against Officer Roger Worley. Worley, with the assistance of his police union, was able to settle these two charges–along with two other charges involving absenteeism and lateness–by agreeing to accept forfeiture of 48 hours of vacation time in 2011.
The most serious matter charged both officers with insubordination for failing to follow proper procedures after an armed robbery victim approached them while they were parked in two separate patrol cars in an Irving Avenue parking lot on October 19, 2010. The officers at the time were taking radar readings on the traffic headed west on Irving avenue.
According to hearing testimony, when the Spanish-speaking robbery victim approached Cheeseman, who is fluent in Spanish, and told her that his assailant had pulled a gun and threatened to kill him, neither Cheeseman nor senior officer Worley put out a radio bulletin or informed a supervisor of the report. Rather, Cheeseman reportedly just asked the victim for his name and phone number and both officers went out on foot patrol for 45-minutes to look for the suspect without telling other officers or their superiors what they were doing and why they were doing it.
The victim then went to a friend’s house and then back to the location of the robbery after he realized that the robbery may have been captured by a store’s surveillance camera. Although some twenty minutes had elapsed, the victim allegedly still saw Cheeseman’s and Worley’s police cars at the same location and assumed that the officers, who were apparently out on foot patrol, were still in their cars. This caused him to “conclude that the officers were not doing anything about the incident, so he didn’t approach them again.”
Cheeseman and Worley claimed that the victim never mentioned a robber or a gun and that he reported only an attempted simple assault. The officers also reported that the victim walked to their patrol cars and spoke in a calm voice while the victim’s testimony and video evidence suggested that ran to the police cars and was out of breath and excited when he made his report to Cheeseman.
The second matter charged both Cheeseman and Worley with using racially discriminatory language on December 22, 2010. Apparently, Cheeseman told Worley that an individual that she had just stopped was a “F***’in White Cracker.” Worley apparently made reference to a “bacon cracker.” This matter caused City Hearing Officer J. Fred Coldren to impose a 14-day unpaid suspension upon Cheeseman. As noted above, Worley and the City settled this charge, along with the other charges, with a 48-hour vacation forfeiture.