As a former municipal prosecutor I have the utmost respect those professionals working in the law enforcement community. And who wouldn’t? These are the men and women who put their lives on the line every day to ensure public safety on our roadways and elsewhere across the state. Yet, even though I respect and applaud the effort and selfless dedication of the police force in general, as a New Jersey drunk driving defense attorney I understand that there are always going to be some bad apples out there.
The line we all must draw is when a public servant breaks the laws he or she is sworn to uphold. As a citizen I fully expect all public officials including police officers to carry themselves with dignity and remain exemplary role models to the rest of society.
What I cannot accept is a public servant who flouts the law or twists it for his own gain. Drunk driving is an area of the law in which I and my staff are quite experienced. Not long ago, a couple police officers from Hackensack, NJ, were charged with a cover-up involving a traffic accident. One of the shocking aspects of this story is that one of the cops was drinking and driving while off duty when he crashed his vehicle.
According to news reports, Hackensack Police officer Jakub M. Szostak was apparently drinking prior to the a crash after leaving the Poitin Still tavern in the early morning of June 2. According to the Bergen County prosecutor’s office, moments after the accident on-duty Officer Eric M. Mark pulled up in his police cruiser. Reports indicate that Mark had only just spoken with Szostak outside the bar before the crash.
Based on reports, Mark, 30, didn’t give the 24-year-old Szostak a filed sobriety test, and instead reported the collision as a hit-and-run accident. Szostak then lied on his insurance claim and received a payout, prosecutors stated. Both officers were suspended in July, although no explanation other than “personnel reasons” was given. Both men had been working for the city just six months following graduation from county police academy barely a year ago.
The men are now charged with falsifying records. Szostak is also charged with insurance fraud. Both are facing up to 18 months in prison, with a potential of five more for Szostak, if they go to trial and are convicted.
Hackensack cops charged in car crash cover-up, CliffviewPilot.com, October 2, 2010