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The New York Times : Lask Files Civil Rights Case for Former Detective Against State Troopers

Susan Chana Lask and Gary Wade

Susan Chana Lask with Gary Wade      Logo NYTimes

December 13, 2006




Convicted Former Detective Sues Over State Police Stop



A former New Jersey police detective has filed a lawsuit accusing two New Jersey State Police troopers of punching him, improperly drawing a weapon and using excessive force during a traffic stop more than two years ago on the Garden State Parkway.
  Videotape from a camera mounted on the dashboard of a state police patrol car showed that within moments of stopping the vehicle, on Aug. 17, 2004, the troopers had ordered the detective, at gunpoint, to produce his license and registration, unbuckled his seat belt and removed him from the car.
It showed one trooper hitting the detective in the back of the head before the other shoved him to the ground, where he was doused with pepper spray and handcuffed.
  The detective, Gary S. Wade, who worked for the Police Department in Tinton Falls, N.J., for eight years, was driving an unmarked police car and wearing his badge on his belt.
  ''I just look at it almost like a bad dream,'' Mr. Wade, 33, said in an interview on Tuesday night. ''I was treated wrongly here on this side of the road for no reason whatsoever. At that point, it made me feel like: If they're treating police officers like this, in uniform, what is going on in the state police?''
  A spokesman for the state police defended the actions of the troopers involved, Michael Colaner and David Ryan. The spokesman, Capt. Al Della Fave, pointed to Mr. Wade's conviction on charges of obstruction of justice and careless driving from the traffic stop as proof that the troopers' conduct was justified. Mr. Wade was ordered to pay $400 in fines.
  ''This case has been through the courts,'' Captain Della Fave said. ''It's extremely baffling to me how he would bring suit under such circumstances.''
  Mr. Wade was forced to resign after his conviction, which was upheld on appeal last month in New Jersey Superior Court. He had been suspended without pay for all but one month since the ep-isode.
  In the interview, Mr. Wade said that he was driving to work in Tinton Falls, in Monmouth County, when his blue Ford Crown Victoria was pulled over by two troopers who suspected him of speeding. The videotape showed that one trooper had drawn his gun barely 30 seconds after ap-proaching the car. According to the police report submitted by Mr. Colaner, the troopers were unsure whether Mr. Wade was impersonating a police officer when they pulled his car over.
  ''I was still uncertain if I was dealing with a police officer, a bounty hunter, an emergency ser-vices volunteer or a private citizen with a replica police car,'' Mr. Colander wrote, noting several similar occurrences in his patrol area in the months before the stop involving Mr. Wade.
  Mr. Wade's lawyer, Susan Chana Lask, dismissed that explanation, noting that Mr. Wade was wearing his badge on his belt and a Tinton Falls police shirt with an embroidered badge on his chest. His vehicle had a police spotlight on the driver's side window. ''It doesn't matter what he thought or didn't think or what his excuse is,'' Ms. Lask said of the trooper. ''You don't pull a gun on a citizen; you don't punch them in the back of the head during a traffic stop for no reason.''
  Mr. Wade, who said that he was still wearing his seat belt and talking on his police radio when the troopers approached his car, added that he clearly identified himself as a police officer and, fol-lowing department procedure, called his supervisor to come to the scene.
  ''When he first came up to the car I showed him the badge on my belt, and there's a badge on my chest,'' Mr. Wade said of the trooper. ''I mean, I'm in a police car.''
  According to a transcript of the video recording that was prepared by his lawyer, Mr. Wade asked Mr. Colaner twice why he was being pulled over. Mr. Colaner did not answer, instead asking for Mr. Wade's license and registration.
  ''I want to see a supervisor out here right now because you are pulling me over for no reason in my own town,'' Mr. Wade said.
  Moments later, Mr. Colander announced that he was arresting Mr. Wade, who was still sitting his car, for disorderly conduct. After a 90-second exchange, the troopers removed Mr. Wade from the car and forced him to the ground, according to the videotape.
  One of the troopers, who appeared to be leaning on Mr. Wade's back, looked up toward the camera in the patrol car recording the events.
  At one point, Mr. Wade said: ''I hope your camera's running. I really do hope your camera's running.''

CORRECTION-DATE: December 15, 2006

An article on Wednesday about a lawsuit accusing two New Jersey state troopers of using ex-cessive force against a police detective from Tinton Falls, N.J., during a traffic stop on the Garden State Parkway in 2004, misspelled the surname of one trooper at two points. He is Michael Colaner, not Colander.

GRAPHIC: Photos: An image from a state police dashboard camera in 2004 showed two troopers subduing a local police detective behind his car in New Jersey.
 Gary S. Wade was an eight-year police veteran in Tinton Falls, N.J. (Photo by James Estrin/The New York Times)