Cops suspended, they say for serving in military

Sarah Wallace reports from Bloomfield, New Jersey
December 20, 2013 3:47:50 PM PST
Two local Iraq veterans say a local police department wants to fire them because they served in the military.

The officers have already been suspended and they fear they'll lose their jobs.

They say they're being punished for taking time off from their job to serve in the military.

They work in the police department in Bloomfield, New Jersey.

"I'm still stunned that this is going on this far," said Michael McCracken, a suspended Bloomfield Police Officer.

Mike McCracken is a 16-year veteran of the Bloomfield, New Jersey Police Department, a Marine, and an Iraqi war veteran, who served two tours. He is now suspended without pay, after a departmental investigation claimed that he abused military leave time for a period of days several years ago.

"I'm 100 percent legal in whatever I've done," McCracken said.

Fellow Bloomfield officer and soldier Hector Cartagena, who also served in Iraq, is suspended for the same allegations.

"I'm still in shock this is happening at once," said Hector Cartagena, a suspended Bloomfield Police Officer.

Both men believe they are being targeted for serving their country. Their attorney says there are tapes where Bloomfield Police Department internal investigators complained about military absences by the officers.

"What they were saying is that officers' military leave and deployment were interfering with other officer's vacation schedules," said Catherine Elston, the officers' attorney.

She says that both cops were traveling to military bases on the dates in question, and that there is documentation.

"We offered to provide them with documentation and they didn't want it," Elston said.

"You're suspended without pay, what does this mean?" Investigative reporter Sarah Wallace asked.

"It's hard. Family there's no Christmas presents for them right now. We'll get through this. I have no doubt. It's everything I worked for up to this point," Cartagena said.

"It is devastating. I have 3 young children, a 3 year old, a 5 year old, and a 6 year old, and I don't have a paycheck now," McCracken said.