HACKENSACK N.J. — The Hackensack City Council is pursuing involuntary early retirement for six police officers, all of whom were involved in shootings or fatal accidents.
The council has applied for involuntary disability retirement for the officers, claiming they are all unable to perform their duties. Five of the six applications were approved, reported NorthJersey.com. The last application was tabled for further discussion.
Residents as well as police officers showed up in force at Tuesday’s council meeting to protest and show solidarity.
Elvin Hernandez, 31, was the only affected officer to speak before the council. Hernandez was involved in a 2015 fatal shooting. He made an impassioned plea to the council to vouch for him and the other officers.
“That day changed me,” Hernandez said. “And for you guys to be doing this, you should be ashamed of yourselves. I put my life on the line.”
The five officers affected by the forced retirements include Hernandez, John Hermann, Alexander Lopez-Arenas, Keith Marrano, and Mohammad Sheikh. The application for Stephen Ochman was tabled.
An involuntary retirement application for McKinley Garvin, a sanitation inspector, was also approved. The reason was not addressed in the article.
Upon receipt, a board of trustees for the Police and Firemen’s Retirement System must approve the applications. Once approved, the officers become eligible for disability retirement benefits based on the duration of their service. If the PFRS trustees approve, the officers cannot change or cancel the date of their retirement.
One of the aspects that appears to be a common denominator is their involvement in shootings and fatal accidents.
Hernandez was involved in the May 2015 fatal shooting of Elvin Diaz. Authorities said that during a probation welfare check, Diaz attacked officers with a meat cleaver. Hernandez, along with Hackensack Police Sgt. Miguel Molina, shot Diaz a total of 10 times, killing him. Hernandez is a distant relative of Diaz’s. He shot Diaz once.
Hermann, Lopez-Arenas, Marrano and Sheikh were involved in the October 2015 shooting of Jose Ronaldo Santos-Alvarez. Santos-Alvarez was wanted in the killings of his girlfriend and son. Officers cornered him in a Clay Street house, and Sheikh shot him once in the abdomen.
Ochman was involved in a fatal car crash last April. The collision took the life of a local resident, John Parham. Ironically, Ochman was on the way to a motorcycle crash when he was involved in the fatality.
Frank Cavallo, PBA president, said the council’s pushing for involuntary disability retirement is relatively uncommon.
“It hasn’t been handled like this in the past,” Cavallo said in a phone interview Tuesday afternoon. “In the past, the city has covered them and their retirement. They haven’t forced them into retirement.”
Attorney Christopher Gray, who represents Lopez-Arenas, Marrano, Sheikh and Hermann, shared Cavallo’s incredulity about the city’s moving forward with the involuntary disability retirement process.
“It’s not very common for a municipality to cut off and stop supporting the officers that have served them,” Gray said in a phone interview Tuesday afternoon.
Gray said that all the officers he represents, other than Hermann, have filed to receive their disability pension already.
Hernandez confirmed that he had applied for his disability pension and notified the department of his resignation effective Sept. 1.
Gray said that by starting the process for disability retirement, the city is effectively cutting off much-needed benefits to the officers. In his remarks, Hernandez expressed these concerns for himself and his family.
“What am I supposed to tell my wife when I get home and say, ‘Hey, babe, I can’t pay the rent this month,’ ” Hernandez said.
According to Hernandez, City Manager Ted Ehrenburg had a phone conversation with him assuring him that he would be taken care of. Ehrenburg confirmed that the two had that conversation but declined to comment further.
(Photo courtesy 911garage)