Officer Sues Safety Chief, Deptford

Posted: September 05, 1990

A Deptford Township police officer, suspended in July for insubordination, is suing the township and its outgoing public safety director, Frank Roller, and the Township Council for reinstatement.

The suit also seeks unspecified damages and compensation.

In the suit, Officer Michael Hauss argues that the suspension, which was ordered by Roller after Hauss refused to meet with a Bryn Mawr psychiatrist, was improper because there is no "basis in the rules or regulations" for the order.

Hauss also argues that Roller was not in a position to suspend him because Roller is a civilian public safety director and, as such, does not have the power to schedule or discipline members of the police department.

The suit seeks to "permanently enjoin the Township Council from confirming 'police powers' on a public safety director."

Last month, Roller announced he would resign as of Sept. 14 for personal reasons. Township officials, including manager William R. Saunders, who will ultimately make the decision, have said they plan to replace Roller with a police chief.

Filed with the suit as evidence is a two-page July 18 letter Roller sent Hauss ordering him to meet with psychiatrist Sidney Copel.

In the letter, Roller said he questioned Hauss' "fitness to continue" working as a police officer.

The letter outlines in reverse chronological order a litany of incidents of alleged improper and irregular behavior by Hauss dating back to 1985.

These include:

A May 25, 1990, incident in which Hauss, while directing traffic, ''appeared confused . . . yelling and throwing a whistle at a passing car."

An April 22, 1990, incident during which Hauss was taking a prisioner into custody and "allegedly smashed (the prisoner's) face on a table top, breaking his nose, cutting his face and bruising his neck."

A Jan. 14, 1990, incident during which Hauss ran a patrol car into a wall at the Deptford Municipal Utilities Authority Building, causing more than $2,000 in damage. A formal hearing was held following that incident, during which Hauss was found to be "negligent" and lost two vacation days, according to Roller's letter.

Also listed are "various brutality complaints . . . some resulted in civil action against the township, others referred to violations of civil rights."

Hauss argues that, with two exceptions - the auto accident and a letter of reprimand he was given for refusing to remove "illegal dark lenses from his personal vehicle" - he was tried and found not guilty of all charges.

The matter is currently before Superior Court Judge Robert E. Francis.

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