According to Raymond Wiss, the attorney for the Bogota, New Jersey Police Department, the only reason for seeking the discharge of Officer Regina Tasca was her “bizarre and outlandish” conduct. While it’s not clear why he chose the word “outlandish,” her conduct most certainly was bizarre.
Plenty of cop “beat downs” can be found online, but how often does the officer who stops others from handing out the beating get fired for it? That’s exactly what’s happening to Officer Regina Tasca in the Bogota Police Department.
Tasca’s dashboard camera captured her as she attempted to stop two officers from beating an emotionally disturbed young man. Just days after the incident, she was told she was being suspended with pay. A year later, her trial is about to begin as the Bogota PD seeks to fire her.
Two backup officers from the Ridgefield PD arrived, the first rushing the young man who demonstrated neither violence nor resistance, and putting him down, while the second started beating him about the head. Just another quiet day in Jersey, until Tasca did the unthinkable.
Tasca described what we see on the videotape: “The Ridgefield Park officer automatically charges and takes him down to the ground. I was quite shocked. As he’s doing that, another Ridgefield Park officer flies to the scene in his car, jumps out and starts punching him in the head.”Bizarre indeed. The obvious move would have been to kick the young man from behind, perhaps in the midsection until there was room to safely kick him in the head without risking harm to the Ridgefield officer’s fist.
On the tape you can hear Tara, the mother, and Kyle, her son, screaming, “Why are you punching him?” and “Stop punching me!”
The two Ridgefield Park Sergeants are never heard refuting the claims that they punched the 22 year-old man as he was waiting for an ambulance.
Even worse, Kyle was never charged, nor arrested, for any offense. Tasca says it’s because he never threatened, did not have a weapon, and indeed never resisted and was not violent. Eventually Tasca was able to pry the punching Ridgefield Park officer off Kyle…
I owe Officer Tasca an apology. For a long time, I’ve argued that the core problem with police abuse and misconduct is that good officers lack the fortitude to call out the bad, to stop the damage. Officer Tasca did exactly that, trying to pull an officer off a harmless, disturbed young man. For her efforts, her sanity and competence have been denigrated, and her position put at grave risk. Even if she should prevail, it’s pretty likely that the tiny Bogota PD won’t throw a “welcome back” party.
The room isn’t lined with uniform officers supporting their sister who did the right thing. There is no PBA or FOP protests organized outside to support Regina Tasca. I just checked the LEAP website, and see no expression of support for Officer Tasca.
Aside from her lawyer, Catherine Elston, and the mother of the young man who was being beaten, Regina Tasca has no friends. Well, maybe a few friends on the internet, like Radley Balko. who notes the irony that cops who beat civilians, shoot them (and their dogs), are protected, while the cop who tries to save a person being beaten by a cop becomes the outcast.
It isn’t just that cops don’t rat out other cops, it’s that those who do obviously have psychological problems. It’s a chilling thought. It also sends a pretty clear message to other well-meaning cops. Cross the blue line, and you may not only lose your job, we’ll also publicly question your sanity.
At the hearing to consider whether Tasca should be fired, Elston argues that there are two additional factors at play. First, that Tasca is the first woman on the Bogota police force. Second, that Tasca is a lesbian. Given that Elston certainly knows the dynamic at issue far better than the reporters, on whose stories I rely, I defer to her understanding of the motivations to get Tasca off the force, though the facial reasons relate to Tasca’s purported dereliction of duty and conduct unbecoming an officer. That means she sided against the other cops by not joining them in a beating and making them look bad.
Many here and elsewhere, who don’t enjoy the benefits of a shield and pension after 20 years, complain bitterly of the way police treat civilians, from their disdain for constitutional rights to their violent conduct. Regina Tasca is a cop who not only refused to play along, but actually did the unthinkable by putting herself at risk to stop it. Now would be fine time for all those voices of anger to speak out in support of a cop who conducted herself the way we hope and pray others will.
And to add insult to injury, where are all the cops who whisper that they agree, that they hate watching their fellow cops hurt people, lie about people, that they wish things were different. Now would be a good time to come out of the closet and line up behind Regina Tasca, who showed the guts to do the right thing and is now suffering for it. Put on those shiny gunbelts, guys, and stand behind this female, gay officer who refused to do harm or let harm be done.