EXCLUSIVE: Parole officers say they were illegally stopped by Rockland County cops

EMBED </>More Videos

Sarah Wallace on a group of parole officer who sued Rockland County cops (WABC)

It's almost unheard of to have members of law enforcement publicly lambasting each other, but the state parole officers say what happened to them is so egregious, they can no longer stay silent and they are not stopping there, they are filing a federal civil rights lawsuit.

Sarah Wallace: "You were afraid they were going to shoot you?"

Sheila Penister said "I could rest assured I was dead that day."

The four veteran New York State Parole officers deal with danger every day, but they say they never imagined the greatest threat of their lives could come from their own. It happened during a tense stand-off at this intersection on Route 59 in Rockland county in late April.

"All I could think of was if I sneeze, or blink, or clear my throat, that, yeah, I might have a bullet lodged in my head," said Annette Thomas.

The officers, who work out of Rockland County, were wearing their vests and shields and riding in this state-issued vehicle with a parole placard on the dashboard. They say, sudden.y, the car was surrounded at gunpoint by cops from the Ramapo Police department and one from the Village of Suffern.

Sarah: "Why do you think you were stopped?"

"Racial profiling, there's no doubt in my mind. I believe that 4 black officers with gold shields in a predominantly white neighborhood was just a tad bit too much for them to swallow," said Penister.

Sarah Wallace: "And they were all white?"

Penister: "All white."

Several sources tell Eyewitness News that someone in the neighborhood had called 911 reporting suspicious people wearing bullet-proof vests. Local cops responded.

Officer Mario Alexandre had left his business card at the parole violator's home but says police never called his number, and although the vehicle plate was registered to the state, cops still confronted the parole officers. Alexandre, the driver, says a Ramapo PD cop got physical.

"He came toward me, punched me in the badge, said, bulls---, you can buy it at any store. I said, if you turn it over, you will see the state ID. But he didn't pay no attention to that," he said.

The officers say what happened next was potentially dangerous confusion.

"We had our hands up but then they were giving us different commands," said Washington. Alexandre said that everyone was giving different orders and they were afraid they were going to get shot.

The officers say the stand-off continued even after a Ramapo detective arrived on the scene who knew Officer Alexandre and identified him.

"As a parole officer you have to have tough skin. But this was much deeper than just getting our feelings hurt. This was activity that was menacing and threatening and violent. Hateful," adds Washington.

The officers have now filed a Federal claim against both police departments for violating their civil rights.

"Once they already had confirmation of the identities' of my clients, they had 1, no right to stop them, 2, no right to hold them at gunpoint, 3, no right to assault them and use excessive force on them," said Bonita Zelman.

The officers say they are still too traumatized to go back to work.

"If I do return to work, I still have to encounter working with other law enforcement agencies and I'm not sure how I'm supposed to do that when I'm fearful, distrusting. I basically felt betrayed," said Thomas.

Related Topics:
the investigatorsinvestigationsparolepoliceinvestigatorsAirmont
(Copyright ©2018 WABC-TV. All Rights Reserved.)