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Atlantic City police captain claims promotion process ‘flawed, tainted and corrupt’

Disciplinary issues were hidden and favoritism took precedence in at least four Atlantic City police promotions, a current department captain claims in a court filing.
The promotion process within the department is “flawed, tainted and corrupt,” Capt. Stacy Herrerias alleges, offering four examples that her attorneys say should be part of the ongoing suit the city’s police union filed against the city and state in 2018.
Like PBA Local 24, Herrerias case questions how promotions have been made since the state takeover of Atlantic City put some civil service requirements on hold under the Municipal Stabilization and Recovery Act.
Attorneys Philip Burham and Michelle Douglas filed a motion last month to include Herrerias as a third party plaintiff in that case.
But the motion “has attempted to turn this case on its head, raising new claims, against new defendants, relating to promotions which occurred nearly two years after the union filed suit,” city attorney Ron Israel said in a written response to the court.
Herrerias says she was skipped over for a promotion from captain to deputy chief as the result of “favoritism, friendship and cronyism” because there was no promotional list in place nor set criteria given for the job.
She had already expressed concerns of “political influence and favoritism” to a city official during that promotional process and requested a meeting with the state.
Instead, then-Police Chief Henry White would later tell her the state was angered by that move.
While the brief does not name the deputy chief choice, Bridget Pierce was the one promoted to the acting position last August, becoming the highest-ranking woman in the department’s history.
Losing out to Pierce isn’t the only promotion Herrerias questioned.
In three other cases, she claims that while assigned to Internal Affairs, she saw firsthand how then-Police Chief Henry White overturned, delayed and ignored sustained claims against officers he had pegged for promotion.
In October 2018, White allegedly overturned sustained findings against an officer a month before the asked Herrerias to “administratively dismiss” disciplinary charges against that same officer, clearing the way for a promotion.
Herrerias objected, citing the state Attorney General Guidelines on Internal Affairs Policy, according to the court brief.
It was not clear if she reported the alleged violations to the Attorney General’s Office or Atlantic County Prosecutor’s Office at the time.
In November of 2019, White allegedly delayed impeding discipline of another officer since it would have disqualified them from promotion to sergeant.
That unnamed officer was promoted the next month, the brief claims.
In August 2020, a sergeant who recently served what is described as “major discipline for sustained excessive force allegations” was promoted to lieutenant. In 2018, that same officer had sustained charges that were administratively dismissed, the brief claims.
“This same officer has a close relationship with a high-ranking city official and the officer’s disciplinary record would have disqualified the officer from consideration and/or selection for the promotion,” the brief continues.
None of the officers names appear in the filing, nor any details about the sustained allegations.
There were 24 officers promoted to sergeant Dec. 2, 2019, with Mayor Marty Small saying the diverse class was “filled with Atlantic City residents.”
But four days later, one of the officers skipped in that class noted that just four of the 24 were still living in the city.
Two officers have attorneys who have been allowed to participate in the court hearing. Sgts. Michael Arroyo and Mark Benjamin, a black officer who joined that suit citing racial discrimination. Benjamin was later among seven sergeants promoted to lieutenant. Arroyo has since become only the second Hispanic officer to become a lieutenant, following Will Santiago, who was part of Benjamin’s class.
The argument for Herrerias to join the case is currently scheduled for March.
She is requesting that the acting deputy chief not be made permanent and that “the appointing authority must give a written statement of its ‘legitimate’ reasons for the selection of the candidate to the permanent position.”

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